Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

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Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Julian K. Wheatley, PhD

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wheatley, Julian K. Chinese verbs & essentials of grammar / Julian K. Wheatley. p. cm.— (........ Verbs & Essentials of Grammar) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-07-171304-7 (acid-free paper) — ISBN 0-07-171304-2 (acid-free paper)— ISBN 978-0-07-171342-9 (e-ISBN) 1. Chinese language—Verb. 2. Chinese language— Grammar. I. Title. II. Title: Chinese verbs and essentials of grammar. PL1235.W53 2014 495.182421 — dc23 2014025220 McGraw-Hill Education products are available at special quantity discounts to use as premiums and sales promotions or for use in corporate training programs. To contact a representative, please visit the Contact Us pages at

This book is printed on acid-free paper.


Preface Acknowledgments Conventions

ix xi x iii

1 Background 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

The Standard Language Regional Mandarin Regional Languages Origins o f the Standard Spoken Language The W ritten Standard W riting in the Regional Languages Languages Related to Chinese Chinese Names fo r China

1 3 4 5 6 9 10 10

2 Representing Pronunciation 9. Alternative Systems o f Transcription 10. The Pinyin System 11. Pronunciation

13 15 17

3 The Writing System 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

The O rigin o f Characters The Function o f Characters The Form o f Characters Dictionaries Number o f Characters The Reading Process Traditional and Simplified Characters

25 26 27 29 31 32 34

4 Sentences and Sentence Processes 19. Topic-Comment 20. Other Aspects o f Word Order 21. Questions

37 39 41 v

vi Contents

22. 23. 24. 25.

Question Words as Indefinites Yes and No Negation Commands and Requests

44 45 46 46

5 Words 26. Parts o f Speech (Word Classes) 27. M onosyllabic and Polysyllabic Words

49 51

6 Nouns 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33• 34.

Compound Nouns Noun Suffixes Pronouns and Demonstratives Zero-Pronominalization Where Are the Articles (“ a” and “ the” )? Mochfication and the Particle cfe ( 的 ) The sW-也 (是 - 的 )Construction and Situational 也 (的 ) 35. Place Words 36. Time When 37. Measure Words

53 54 58 59 60 61 63 65 68 74

7 Verbs in General Verb Suffixes 38. 39. 40. 41 • 42. 43.

The Verb Suffix -gwo ( 过 ) The Verb Suffix -/e ( f ) and Sentence /e ( 了) The Verb Suffix -zhe ( ^ ) (在 )+ Verb to Signal Ongoing Action The Absence o f a Suffix Verb Reduplication and Tentativeness

81 82 86 88 89 90

Idiosyncratic Verbs 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51.

57»' (是 ) :Identity and Category Verbs L ike shi: Classificatory Verbs ySw (有 ) :Possession and Existence Zai ( 4 ) : Location G否 ( 给) :“ G ive” and Its Derivatives Generalized Verbs M odal Verbs Am bient Verbs

92 94 95 96 97 99 102 106


t e

C o0 / 7

w /

8 Adjectives and Adverbs 7 0

Adjectives and Verbs Adjectives as Transitive Verbs Verb + Adjective Phrase -\-yidianr V iv id Reduplication Adverbs Predicate Complements Comparison Intensifiers The Three des

8 9 1 5 9 0 3 4 0 0 1 1 1 2 2 2

52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58. 59. 60.

9 Complex Verbs 13 1 1孓 1 11

61. Resultative Verb Compounds 62. Directional Verb Compounds 63. Potential Compounds


10 After the Verb 7 3 9 3 2 4 6 7 0 1 6 7 4 4 5 5 5 5

64. Objects and Complex Verbs 65. Postverbal Particles: Goals o f M otion and Transformation 66. Verb-Plus-Object Compounds 67. M ock Objects 68. Ditransitive Verbs: Verbs w ith Two Objects 69. Embedded Object Clauses 70. Duration Complements 71. Extent Phrases 72. Conjunctions

11 Verbs and Prepositions

2 4 6 7

12 Miscellaneous 79. Numbers 80. Money

1 2

Verbs in Series Verbs and Prepositions Prepositions The 6(3 ( 把)Construction The Preposition ( 被) Pivot Verbs

6 6 6^-66

73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78.

1 7 1 1 7 4

viii Contents 81. Names, Titles, and Forms o f Address 82. Proverbs and Sayings Appendix: Common Verbs Organized by Semantic Area Bibliography Index

176 178 181 195 197


This book is about Modem Standard Chinese, commonly called Mandarin. For those who are beginning their study o f Chinese, it is an overview o f basic forms and structures, a compendium o f examples, and a guide to some o f the issues involved in the study o f the language. For those at more advanced stages, it serves as a handbook o f topics fo r selective study or review that can supplement the fine textbooks in current use. For those who have a live ly curiosity about the w o rld s most w idely spo­ ken language but have no plans to study it, this book provides an introduction to the language and elucidates those features that make it unusual, including its character w ritin g system, the tones that distinguish its words, the relative sim plicity o f its grammar, and its relationship to Chinese regional speeches (dialects), such as Cantonese. This book is not a phrasebook for travelers, although it cites a great deal o f useful language. N o r is it a complete grammar o f the language, although it does cover the main grammatical features. Rather, it is a book that keeps the needs o f the learner in mind, illum inating the most prominent features o f the language and providing a rich array o f accessible examples o f spoken usage. The book covers 82 topics, grouped in 12 chapters. W hile the topics fo llo w in a logical sequence that allows for continuous reading, they can also be read singly in the manner o f entries in a handbook. Each topic is illus­ trated w ith representative samples o f the language as it is spoken in China today, and every attempt has been made to make these examples life like and accessible. However, in matters o f usage— especially spoken usage— there are bound to be disagreements between one speaker and another, particularly w ith a language that is as w idely spoken as standard Chinese. It is hoped that the reader w ill be able to negotiate competing claims, testing them where necessary, and ultim ately noting variants and making corrections.

Verbs and Essentials of Grammar The title o f this M cG ra w -H ill Education series highlights verbs. In many languages, verbs undergo complicated changes in fonn according to gram­ matical categories such as tense, aspect, negation, voice, and mood. These changes are traditionally set out in tables, and one o f the more onerous tasks




for the student o f such languages is to become fam iliar w ith at least the most commonly used forms in these tables. Chinese, you w ill be glad to know, has none o f this. In Chinese, verbs— and, indeed, nouns and other words 一 are invariable. Suffixes are few in number. There are no conjugations for verbs, no declensions fo r nouns or pronouns, no agreement for adjectives. Chinese manages without such formal shifts as “ go” 〜 “ went,” “ took” 〜 “ take,” “ child” 〜“ children.” Instead, it makes use o f specialized words, word order, and context. Nevertheless, the verb is still the heart o f the sentence. In fact, it can be argued that, as the only obligatory element o f sentence structure, the verb is even more prominent in Chinese than in many other languages, since it encodes functions performed by prepositions, adjectives, and even conjunctions in languages like English.


//m ' •y/zwd 也 /m i 也 ( 会 说 的 不 如 会 听 的 ) :‘To speak is not so valuable as to listen9 goes the Chinese saying, and in w ritin g this book, I have listened to friends, colleagues, passing acquaintances, and passersby too numerous to list. However, a number o f people deserve special men­ tion. They are: Dr. Liw ei Jiao, from the U niversity o f Pennsylvania, who provided extensive notes on the final version o f the manuscript; Professor Scott M cG innis, from the Defense Language Institute in Washington, D.C., who did the same fo r two earlier versions; and Ms. Fangqi Guo from Har­ bin, a student at Tulane University, who helped me check examples and usage. In addition, thanks go to Professor Robert Bauer in Hong Kong and Ms. Yuhan "Shelly9Yu, from the O ffice o f Foreign Exchange at the Shen­ zhen Educational Bureau. I thank them all w ith heartfelt gratitude. I w ould also like to thank the excellent team at M cGraw H ill Education who nursed this project to completion, beginning w ith Christopher Brown, editor and publisher. He, along w ith Julia Anderson Bauer, the managing editor; G igi Grajdura, the project editor; and Elleanore Waka, the produc­ tion supervisor, tolerated a lot o f missed deadlines, and much to their credit, agreed to include characters that added considerably to the length o f the book. Dan Franklin, Terry Yokota, and the anonymous Chinese reader man­ aged the d iffic u lt jo b o f copy editing a manuscript that has barely a line w ithout some special symbol. And many thanks also to Sylvia Rebert at Progressive Publishing Alternatives, who supervised the final stages o f pro­ duction and proofreading.



In order to make this book accessible to readers w ithout knowledge o f Chinese, w hile at the same tim e not discouraging those who know the language or who are in the process o f learning it, Chinese examples are, where feasible, cited w ith four layers o f representation in this book: Chinese characters; the romanized transcription known as Pinyin; a w ord-for-w ord gloss; and an idiom atic translation. However, to save space, exceptions are made fo r examples that are b rie f or simple, or otherwise judged eligible fo r a reduced format. As an example o f the fu ll format, here is a Chinese saying that, inciden­ tally, shows the balanced phrasing and rhyme typical o f Chinese gnomic expressions.



ShTfu ling jin men, xiuxmgzai geren.

p in y in t r a n s c r ip t io n

Master lead enter door, cultivation be-at individual. 4Your teacher can lead you to the door, [but] success is up to you.’

w o r d - fo r- w o r d g lo ss

id io m a t ic t r a n s l a t i o n

Unless otherwise stated, characters are cited in the sim plified set that is standard on the mainland (as w e ll as in Singapore, but not in Hong Kong). Pronunciation is cited in the official Chinese transcription called Pinyin ( ‘putting together—sounds’ )一 hereafter written "p inyin,5, without capitaliz­ ing the up.,? Meaning is usually given word fo r word and then idiom atically (that is, in terms o f the sentence or utterance). The word-for-word gloss is a rough way o f indicating how the idiomatic meaning is constructed in the original language. Thus, in the example above, the glosses1make it clear that English words like “ to” and “ the” have no equivalent in Chinese and that “ up to you” is represented as “ be-at” + “ individual.” Examples cited in reduced format om it characters or word-for-word glosses, or both.

'A gloss is not a definition. It is an equivalent for a word in a particular context. A defini­ tion, on the other hand, attempts to characterize the meaning o f a word in all its contexts: men in the example can mean Moor5or 'doorway/ but by extension, 'opening/ 'special­ ized subject/ and 'school o f thought.1




Summary of Conventions Most conventions are illustrated in the saying above. Spaces demarcate words, which may be o f one, two, or more syllables: ShTfu ling jin men. Other conventions are the follow ing. • | ] enclose words not explicitly represented in one o f the paired languages: 4[but]; • < > indicate optional material dianr = yidianr or dianr. • { } indicate grammatical boundaries (word, phrase, clause, etc.): {tamen

shud de) hua. • X 〜Y indicates that X and Y are both possible: 〜 • *x indicates that x is ungrammatical or otherwise unacceptable. Meaning is indicated as follows. • English equivalents are marked in single quotes: 4. . .9; foreign-language material (other than Chinese) cited in text rather than in separate exam­ ples is enclosed in double q u o t e s : . .9,. • Literal meanings are placed in parentheses and separated by hyphens: hongbao ('red-packet9). • Grammatical words for which no simple English equivalent is available are sim ply left as pinyin in small capital letters: DE, LE, ZHE. • Definitions are marked as follows. • Synonyms o f a single sense are separated by commas (,). • Separate senses o f a word are separated by semicolons (;). • Glosses o f separate parts o f speech are also separated by semicolons (;): ( 红)‘red; be popular, be in vogue; a bonus, dividend.’ The follow ing abbreviations are used. M SFP vo.


measure word sentence-final particle verb-plus-object compound

Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar


1. The Standard Language It is not surprising to find that China, given its size, exhibits linguistic diversity on the scale of, say, the countries o f Romance-speaking Europe. To counter this diversity, one language is recognized as a national spoken standard. On the mainland, that language is called Putonghua, literally, cthe common speech.5 Putonghua is the language used by the media, taught in the schools, and authenticated by dictionaries, language textbooks, and other reference works. This book is about Putonghua. In English, is sometimes referred to sim ply as “ Chinese, ” a usage that Chinese themselves seem to prefer (consider Chinese text­ book names such as Practical Chinese fo r English Speakers). H o w ­ ever, because Chinese can also refer to Cantonese, Shanghainese, and other speeches that w ould not necessarily be understood by speakers o f 尸齡” t he name “ Chinese” needs to be further qualified as “ Standard Chinese.” For reasons that w ill be given in Section 4, in English, Putonghua is also— perhaps more commonly~~called Mandarin. Thus, the great Chinese linguist Yuen Ren Chao called his 1948 textbook Mandarin Primer. The title o f my own textbook, Learning Chinese: A Foundation Course in Mandarin, uses “ Chinese” in its narrow sense, but supports it w ith the term “ Mandarin,” just to be sure. Mandarin also covers a range o f dialects, however, so it too needs to be farther specified as “ Standard Mandarin.” In this book,in the interest o f sim plicity, “ Chinese” and “ Mandarin,” unless otherwise indicated, refer to the standard language.

Other Chinese Names for Standard Chinese Standard Chinese is, more or less, recognized as a prestige norm throughout the Chinese-Speaking world, even though it has different names in differ­ ent places. In Taiwan, it is referred to as Gudyu 'the national language/ In


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Singapore, where Chinese is one o f four official languages, it is referred to as Huayu, 'language o f the Hua., ! W hile Putonghua is used as a precise term fo r Standard Spoken C hi­ nese, in contrast to regional speeches such as Cantonese, when Putonghua can be assumed, speakers often refer to the language as Zhongwen 'the Chinese language9or Hanyu 'the spoken language o f the Han.9Here is an example.

Ni Hanyu shud de hen hao.l2 You Chinese speak d e very well. 'Y our Chinese is very good.’

Ni hui jiang Zhongwen ma?3 You able speak Chinese m a ? 6Do you speak Chinese?9

Different Standards Because Chinese is associated w ith several p o litic a l entities, it can be characterized as “ p lu rice n tric ”;that is,it has several different norms. Thus, ju s t as dictionaries o f English represent standards o f B ritish, Am erican, or Australian English (at least), so too, there are differences as to what is regarded as standard Chinese. These differences are not fu lly form alized, but they are to some degree registered in dictionaries published on the m ainland, in Taiwan, and in Singapore that purport to define standard Chinese. Acknowledged differences are re latively few, the most salient being the choice o f words (fo r example, ‘pineapple’ is usually boluo or boluomi (less often fengli) on the mainland, usually fengli in Taiwan, and huaugli in Singapore), the pronunciation o f words (fo r example, the w ord fo r 'refuse, garbage9 is usually pronounced laji in mainland M andarin, but lese in Taiwan M andarin), and usage (fo r example, airen is 'spouse9 on the mainland, but 'sweetheart9 or 'lo v e r9 in Taiwan).

lHua is another name for Chinese. It appears, in combination with Zhong, in the official names o f the country: Zhdnghua Renmm Gongheguo 'The People's Republic o f China, (founded in 1949) and Zhonghua Minguo T h e Republic o f China, (founded in 1912 after the overthrow o f the last emperor the year before). 2Rather than start the book o ff with a long explanation o f the pinyin system o f represent­ ing pronunciation, Tve decided to wait until Chapter 3 to introduce the transcription system. Readers are asked to note these early citations, and then check back after reading Chapter 3. 3Or /?w/’ ma? ‘speak’ has been “borrowed” into Mandarin from southern speech, but it is now well integrated in Putonghua.

Background 3

Number of Speakers Based on the 2000 census, the Ethnologue website indicates that 848 m il­ lion people speak varieties o f Mandarin as their mother tongue (presum­ ably meaning their first language). The figure would increase i f speakers o f Mandarin as a second language were included, a category that would include many speakers o f regional speeches, such as Cantonese. However, even w ithout second-language speakers, the figure would encompass a vast range o f differences, from middle-class urban populations at ease w ith the modem standard to rural poor whose local brand o f Mandarin would be barely intelligible to those who spoke only the standard.

2. Regional Mandarin Like English, spoken Mandarin comes in many regional flavors, which is why Chinese often praise foreign speakers o f Mandarin not just for speaking w ell, but for speaking “ in a standard way” 一 speaking with correct pronun­ ciation, w ithout local coloring.

你中文说得很标准。 Ni Zhongwen shud de hen biaozhun. You Chinese speak d e very standard. ‘You speak Chinese correctly.’ As a national language, Mandarin has, in relatively recent times, been pro­ moted as a lingua franca— a common language— and has spread from its natural setting in northern China into regions where the local speech was quite different from the standard. As a result, many Chinese speak two ver­ sions o f Mandarin, a local version w ith a regional accent and distinctive vocabulary, as w ell as an approximation o f the standard fo r more formal communication. To give a concrete example from a highly educated population, a recent tutoring position in a Mandarin program at a U.S. college produced appli­ cants from China w ith slight regional accents, but none so pronounced as to be outside the range o f the standard. A lm ost all o f them noted on their application, however, that they also spoke regional versions o f M an­ darin, which they identified by place, as follow s: N anjing (after the city on the Yangtze), Henan (a central province), Sichuan (a province in the southwest), Shanxi (a province in the north), Dongbei (the far northeastern provinces), and B eijing (the capital, in the north). Each o f these are local versions o f M andarin (N anjing Mandarin, Henan Mandarin, and the oth­ ers) that w ould not pass as standard. Some d iffe r from the standard mostly


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

in details o f pronunciation, including tone; others show both pronunciation and lexical differences. A t the extremes, varieties o f M andarin are probably barely m utu­ a lly in te llig ib le , even in face-to-face interaction, where speakers tend to accommodate each other. However, they are more like each other than they are like other varieties o f Chinese. Am ong the tutoring appli­ cants mentioned above, a significant number noted that they were also speakers o f Yue, Wu, and Min dialects— regional speeches not part o f the M andarin grouping. Yue and Wu are better known co llo q u ia lly as Cantonese and Shanghainese, respectfully. Min is often called H okkien or Fujianese.

3. Regional Languages M andarin dialects, though they cover a large geographical range, form ju s t one o f seven dialect groupings usually distinguished by Chinese lin ­ guists. These dialect groupings are know n as fangyan W ) in Chinese, short fo r 也 少 办 如 (地 方 的 语言 ) 一 lite ra lly , ‘ regional speeches.’ The M andarin group (to w hich standard M andarin is most closely related) is the most widespread and the most u niform , even though it exhibits a considerable range o f variation. M andarin dialects are spoken in a broad arc from the northeast o f China to Sichuan and Yunnan in the far southwest. Three o f the Chinese designations fo r the other dialect groupings are based on historical kingdoms associated w ith their core region. The Yue grouping, known as Cantonese in English, is predominant in the province o f Canton {Guangdong) and in Hong Kong. The Wu dialects, Shanghai­ nese in English, are spoken in and around Shanghai, at the mouth o f the Yangtze River. The Min dialects are spoken m ainly in the province o f Fujian on the east coast, in Taiwan (where Southern M in , known also as Taiwanese, has become an o ffic ia l language), and on Hainan Island farther south. In English, the Min grouping is often named Fujianese fo r the province where it is dominant (Fujian). Fujianese is also referred to as Fukienese, representing an older spelling, and Hokkien, based on the M in pronunciation o f the w ord “ Fujian.” The Gan dialects, spoken in Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, and the Xiang dialects, spoken in Hunan province (named fo r important rivers in those provinces), are less w e ll known. Finally, scattered through the Can­ tonese and the southern range o f the A^>7-speaking populations are the Kejia, meaning 'guest-fam ilies.9In English, they are known as the Hakka, which is the Cantonese pronunciation o f Mandarin Kejia.

Background 5 The follow ing chart summarizes the seven regional Chinese dialect groupings {fangyan).

Chinese Name Guanhua

English Name(s)

Core Locations




Min Wu Gan

Hokkien, Fujianese, Fukienese Shanghai, Shanghainese Gan

Xiang Kejia

Xiang Hakka

Northeast to southwest Canton province, Hong Kong Fujian province, Taiwan, Hainan Shanghai region Jiangxi and Hunan provinces Hunan province Canton province and southern Fujian

Cantonese, Hokkien, and Hakka are particularly well represented in overseas Chinese communities. Singapore’s population spoke mostly Hokkien until recent years, when Mandarin was promoted over “ dialects” ( particularly after the start o f the Speak Mandarin Movement in 1979). U ntil recently, over 90 percent o f American Chinese traced their ancestry to coastal villages in the province o f Canton, particularly the coastal strip known as Sze Yup ‘the Four Counties’ ( now Ng Yup ‘ Five Counties, ).

Differences Among Dialect Groupings Cantonese, Shanghainese, and the other regional speeches are sim ilar in many ways. They are all tonal, for example, although their tonal contours differ from each other. They have many o f the same grammatical categories and share a large lexicon o f roots, even i f they do not use them or pronounce them in the same way. However, they also exhibit differences in word order and in the form and function o f grammatical words. By and large, not only are the regional languages not mutually intelligible, but subdialects w ithin a regional language grouping (fo r example, the Taishan and Guangzhou dia­ lects o f Cantonese) may not be judged mutually comprehensible.

4. Origins of the Standard Spoken Language A national speech, in the sense o f a spoken norm that extends throughout the country and t]ie Chinese-speaking world, would have been inconceivable before the development o f a national school system and modem media by which it could be promulgated. Traditionally, China was a checkerboard o f

6 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar local languages spoken by people who, fo r the most part, were bom, grew up, and died in one locality. Certain ways o f speaking, based on the language o f important national centers such as Nanjing ('southern capital9) and later Beijing ('northern capitaP), developed among regional and national o ffi­ cials so that they could communicate on matters o f administration, but the language that allowed the business o f government and ensured a degree o f unity across such a vast area was not a spoken one, but the written language known as Classical Chinese, a language that remained more or less uniform for more than 2,000 years (see Section 5). In the decades follow ing the Opium Wars in the mid-nineteenth century, and even more so after the fa ll o f imperial rule and the establishment o f a republic in the twentieth century, when the need fo r a national spoken lan­ guage became a clear imperative, the most obvious candidate was the speech o f the official and literary elite— the language o f the Mandarins, called Guanhua in Chinese, 'the language o f officials.9B y this time, Guanhua had become clearly associated w ith Beijing, the capital since the fifteenth cen­ tury, and by the early decades o f the twentieth century, after a long period in which various hybrid proposals were considered (in part to satisfy regional interests), it was decided that the new national norm should be based on the Beijing dialect. Today, standard Mandarin — Putonghua— is defined as being based on the pronunciation o f contemporary Beijing speech, the lexi­ cal usage o f the northern (Mandarin) dialects, and the grammatical norms o f the vernacular literary language known as baihua (see Section 5). In Chinese, the name Guanhua was replaced early on by terms such as Gudyu (which survives in Taiwan usage) and, ultimately, Putonghua as the name for the national language. However, the foreign term “ Mandarin,” first used by the Portuguese as a translation o f Guanhua, followed the evolution o f Guanhua into Putonghua and remains as one o f the foreign names o f the modern standard speech.

5. The Written Standard By contrast to the diversity o f speeches, China has, for the past two m illen­ nia at least, had only one official written language at any one time. Before the early twentieth century, that language was Classical Chinese, a highly stylized and succinct form o f communication that was standardized in the early Han Dynasty (third century BCE) but reflects w riting practices going back much further.

Classical Chinese Classical Chinese differs significantly in grammar and lexicon from modern Chinese o f any variety. A t the time o f its inception 2,000 years ago, it would



have been pronounced quite differently from any o f today’s dialects. But because it was written in characters, Chinese practice has been to read it out w ith contemporary pronunciation, although in some cases, special conser­ vative reading pronunciations have survived for certain words. As a result, Classical Chinese remains accessible to literate Chinese and has been, and remains, a source o f words, sayings, and stylistic forms in both the written and spoken language, much in the way that Shakespeare and the King James Bible have left their mark on English, albeit w ith a much deeper time scale for Chinese. As an example o f Classical Chinese, here are the first lines o f the Confucian classic known in English as The Analects. This is a selection o f say­ ings— probably recorded by followers o f Confucius rather than the great man him self—that reached its present form about 2,000 years ago.

學而時習之, 不亦説乎?( traditional characters) Xue er shixizhT, buyiyue hu? Study and tim ely revise it, not also pleasant sfp ? 4To learn and at due times to repeat what one has learnt, is that not after all a pleasure?’ ( translation by A rthur Waley) Words are more like ly to be monosyllabic in Classical Chinese than in M odern Chinese. Compounds are relatively r a r e : 習 jc/ in the citation would be rendered 温习 in modern Chinese, fo r example, and 説 yw浍would be S xiyue. Other differences involve word choice: Classical f hu would be Modem 吗 ma and Classical 亦 would be Modem 也 〆 • Characters disguise the fact that over a period o f two millennia, sound change would have altered the pronunciation o f words beyond recognition. From rhyme schemes, character analysis, and information from modem dialects, it is possible to deduce that the pronunciation o f 學 for example,was something like “ hak” in Confucius’s time; the pronunciation o f 時 5/?/ was like [ds?].

Modern Standard Written Chinese In the early twentieth century, the formal w ritten medium shifted away from Classical Chinese toward a style o f w riting based on a northern vernacular known as literally ‘plain-language.’ “ Baihua” was the name adopted in the twentieth century for the written style(s) characteristic o f the M ing and Qing novels (beginning in the fourteenth century), whose prose eschewed classical affectations and incorporated vocabulary and usage from contem­ porary northern (or Beijing) speech. A t the time, Baihua was not considered suitable for serious w riting, but by the twentieth century, its affinity w ith the emergent standard speech, Mandarin, and the sense that it was a language o f the people rather than o f the ruling classes made it a logical choice fo r the basis o f the new written norm.

8 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar For northerners, whose spoken language— Mandarin— — also had northern roots, the syntax and lexicon o f the new written language were reasonably familiar. But for southerners, whose spoken languages differed from the northern standard in grammatical structure, word choice, word usage, and pronunciation, learning the new vernacular style required more o f a stretch. However, there was one important ameliorating factor: the character w riting system. W hile characters may show a degree o f internal consistency in the form o f phonetic sets (see Section 14), they are, like the Arabic numerals (for example, 1 ,2 ,3 ), not committed to any particular pronunciation. Classi­ cal Chinese was read out in the pronunciation o f whatever language group­ ing the speaker belonged to— Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin, and so on. The practice continues w ith the modem written medium: it is recognizably Mandarin (although admixtures o f classical diction are often added to more literary styles), but it is read in one’s native idiom — Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin, and so on. In this respect, Chinese is just a more extreme case o f what is generally true o f written language: Australians, Jamaicans, A m eri­ cans, and Liverpudlians apply their local pronunciations but not their local usage or grammar to a text that is otherwise ju st w ritten English. Regardless o f how they speak— whether it be a local version o f Mandarin or Cantonese or some other regional speech that is far from intelligible to Mandarin speakers— Chinese w rite the same Modem W ritten Chinese (or W ritten Mandarin). This written language, when read aloud w ith Manda­ rin pronunciation, is closer to Standard Spoken Mandarin than to any other modern speech. However, it is not identical to Spoken Mandarin. For one thing, it may range in style and genre from the relatively colloquial to the more formal, or "classical.,9 Even for speakers o f Putonghua, the written lan­ guage may diffe r considerably from the spoken form and, in its more formal registers, may be quite different. But regardless o f how colloquial the style, or how close to Mandarin speech, it does not reflect regional usage. For speakers o f Shanghainese, Cantonese, and regional speeches, the standard written language o f China sim ply does not represent the patterns and usage o f their spoken languages. For all children, W ritten Mandarin is a medium taught in school (as, indeed, is written English), but for children whose speech is regional, their task approaches that o f learning a second language. In this sense, Chinese can be characterized as “ diglossic, ” literally ‘o f two tongues.9That is, children grow up with the spoken language to which they are exposed. In school, they learn to write a language that may differ both in choice o f words and in the form o f sentences— grammar. The distinction was far more extreme over the 2,000-plus years throughout which Classical Chinese was the written lingua franca (well into the twentieth century). Then, the distinction was comparable to that found in Europe before the rise o f the vernaculars, when the educated wrote Latin but spoke local languages— the languages that ultimately gave rise to French, Italian, Spanish, and the rest o f the Romance family.



6. Writing in the Regional Languages Two major regional languages have written traditions that differ from Mod­ em Written Chinese: Cantonese and Taiwanese.

Cantonese In Hong Kong, the situation has been different. Until 1997, Hong Kong was a British colony, a fact that insulated it from certain linguistic trends in the rest of China. Hong Kong retained the use of traditional characters, for example. Most of the population still speaks Cantonese, and Cantonese remains the language of education and government. For formal writing, Hong Kongers, like other Chinese, still write a language that does not directly reproduce their speech; that is, they write Modem Written Chinese that is more aligned with northern, Mandarin speech. However, Hong Kong is unusual in also making extensive use of Cantonese writing, that is, writing that reproduces Cantonese speech patterns and word usage. This writing requires the use of uniquely Cantonese characters to represent those words for which there was no appropriate character in the standard written language. Such words have either been assigned historically cognate graphs or have been provided with new graphs created on phonosemantic principles (see Section 12).4* Chinese governments have consistently discouraged any form of dialect writing on the reasonable grounds that it would lead to disunity. However, in Hong Kong, the two types of writing complement each other rather than compete. Written Cantonese is used when there is a need to reproduce actual speech, either because the record needs to be verbatim, as in legal proceed­ ings, or because there are emotive reasons for reproducing local speech. Written Cantonese is now common in newspapers, in comics, in certain magazines, in advertisements, on billboards, in government public service announcements, and, of course, in texting and social networking.

Taiwanese rd ⑽ (台 语 )‘Taiwanese’ is another regional language that has developed a written tradition separate from the Chinese standard. Until the middle of the twentieth century, Mandarin speech and Modem Written Chinese were the norm in Taiwan (and written Taiyu was not published at all), but in the last few decades, the language of approximately 85 percent of the population, a written version of Minnanyu 'Southern Min,9 has become a viable written

4For a thorough account o f Cantonese writing, see Cheung Kwan-hin and Robert Bauer, The Representation o f Cantonese with Chinese Characters (Journal o f Chinese Linguis­ tics, Monograph Series Number 18, 2002).

10 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar medium; called Modern W ritten Taiwanese, it is used not only for informal written communication, but for more serious literary endeavors, as well.

7. Languages Related to Chinese Though the evidence is not conclusive, many scholars regard the Chinese languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, and so on) as form ing a branch o f a fam­ ily o f languages that is usually labeled Sino-Tibetan, but in recent w riting has also been called sim ply Tibeto-Burman (w ith the Chinese branch lying w ithin). This fam ily o f languages includes the major literary languages o f Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, as w ell as some 250 languages spoken in western China, in Nepal and adjacent regions o f the Himalayas, and to the southwest o f China, particularly in Burma and adjacent countries. Grouping the languages in a single fam ily entails that they derive ultim ately from a common prehistorical language, usually referred to as Proto-Sino-Tibetan. This proto-language is inferred from the apparent survival o f a significant number o f its roots in the daughter languages. N ot generally included in the Sino-Tibetan fam ily are Vietnamese and related languages in the MonKhmer fam ily (part o f a larger grouping called Austro-Asiatic) and Thai and related languages (part o f the Tai or Tai-Kadai fam ily).

Borrowed Writing Systems The fact that Japan, as well as Korea and Vietnam at particular times in their history, have used, or now use, a character-writing system based ultimately on the Chinese has no definitive bearing on the question o f the historical origins o f those languages. None o f the three is thought to share an origin w ith Chinese. W riting systems can be borrowed by languages regardless o f their origin, as the widespread use o f Roman alphabets, or Indie "alphasyllabaries,attests. The fact that Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnam­ ese use, or have used at some time in the past, a character-writing system derived from the Chinese shows the profound cultural and political influence o f Chinese in the region. However, the common use o f w riting symbols does not reflect a common origin o f linguistic features.

8. Chinese Names for China Names for China The English name “ China” is thought to derive from a Persian word for porcelain (“ china” ) ,which, in turn, provided an English name for the country where porcelain was originally manufactured. The Chinese name for



China is Zhongguo, literally 4central-kingdom,9 a name that dates back to the Zhou (Chou) dynasty, when China was still fragmented into rival states. The Zhongguo was a central state ruled by an ancient dynasty to which the other states owed some allegiance— hence, “ the central kingdom.”

Beijing and Beiping When the emperor Yong Le o f the M ing Dynasty moved the capital from

Nanjing ('Southern Capital9) to Beiping ('Northern Peace9), he renamed the latter city Beijing ('Northern Capital9). The city has retained that name and function ever since, except for the period 1928 to 1949, when the capital was removed to the south w hile the Japanese occupied the north, and Beijing reverted temporarily to its old name o f Beiping. The nationalist government in Taiwan, refusing to recognize the legitimacy o f the Communist victory in 1949 and the consequent renaming o f the country as the People’s Republic o f China, continued to call its e lf (and the rest o f China) the Republic o f China, and to use the name Beiping rather than Beijing.


2 Representing Pronunciation

9. Alternative Systems of Transcription In a book about Chinese, it is obviously necessary to be able to represent the language in a way that is accessible to people who are not able to read nor­ mal Chinese w ritin g in characters. We need a transcription system that can represent Chinese and that can, w ith a little prim ing, be read out by readers to serve the purposes o f this book— which is not to learn the language as such, but to provide a useful guide and reference book.

Transcription Systems The Wade-Giles System A number o f transcription systems fo r Chinese have seen considerable use over the past century and a half. One o f the earliest was the WadeGiles system, named fo r B ritish diplomats and scholars Thomas Wade and Herbert Giles, who lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Wade-Giles system was w id e ly used in the twentieth cen­ tury and continues to see lim ited use even in the present day. Its earlier popularity is reflected in standard English spellings such as “ Chou” for the Chou Dynasty (Zhou in pin yin ) or 46Hu S hih" fo r the Chinese philoso­ pher and language reform er {Hu Shi in pin yin). Tones are om itted when citin g names in English; otherwise, tones in Wade-Giles are represented by superscript numerals: C hou1, Hu2Shih4.

The Yale System The Yale system became popular in language-learning materials developed at Yale University and elsewhere, beginning in the 1950s. It had the advan­ tage o f being easy to type, and relatively transparent (or intuitive) for Eng­ lish speakers. Thus, fo r example, ^Jou99was used for the dynasty name, and “ Hu Shf” fo r the philosopher. Yale indicates tones w ith diacritics (accent signs), as shown. 13

14 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

The Gwoyeu Romatzyh System: Spelling the Tones Another system, called Gwoyeu Romatzyh (GR fo r short), indicates tones by varying the spelling o f vowels: thus “ hau, haur, hao, haw” represents four syllables, w ith tones 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. GR requires a greater initial effort to learn than the other systems, but in return, gives tonal distinctions the same status as vowels and consonants, making them more memorable.

Bopomofo: A Transcription Without Roman Letters A ll o f the systems mentioned above make use o f letters and other symbols fam iliar to speakers o f European languages, but less fam iliar to Chinese. One popular Chinese system o f transcription, invented in the early part o f the twentieth century, took its cue from the Japanese syllabary (kana) and made use o f symbols derived from ancient characters. Thus, to cite one o f the more obvious cases, 尸,representing an in itial 51/?,is based on the character P , pronounced shT. Zhou (Chou), in this system, is written i ^ , with symbols for zh + ou and the level tone unmarked; Hu Shi is written T w ith h + u and sh and rising and falling tones marked w ith accents. Formally, this system is called Zhiiyin Fuhao ('phonetic transcription9), but inform ally it is named fo r its first four symbols (whose names incorporate the vowel Bopomofo. Bopomofo is the only transcription that can be written vertically without loss o f readability, and since Taiwanese still w rite mostly in the traditional top-to-bottom and right-to-left fashion, it has found an ecological niche that has ensured its survival to the present day. In Taiwan, Bopomofo is used mainly in schools and in other educational settings where there is a need to indicate pronunciation alongside characters. In publications, a running transcription in Bopomofo is placed to the right o f characters, where it pro­ vides a stylistically harmonious pronunciation guide that is unobtrusive, yet immediately accessible. Bopomofo, along w ith pinyin, can also be used to input Chinese characters for word processing.

English Spellings of Chinese Names English spellings such as Peking (for Beijing), Canton (for Guangzhou), and Amoy (for Xiamen) derive from postal spellings established in the late nine­ teenth century and carried over to the twentieth century and, in some cases, up to the present day. These spellings were influenced partly by Wade-Giles romanization (for example the “ p” in Peking) and partly by the pronunciation o f regional languages. The English name Hong Kong is based on the Cantonese pronuncia­ tion o f the place rather than the Mandarin. Amoy (a city on the east coast) is also based on the local (Hokkien) pronunciation rather than the Mandarin. Peking too; like the other “ -king” cities— Nanking and Chungking— is probably also modeled on Cantonese, which has the “ k ” sound in those

Representing Pronunciation


names. The shift in English from Peking to Beijing has not only stranded names like Peking University, Peking Duck, and Peking Opera, all o f which retain the old spelling, but has led to an affected pronunciation o f the capital as “ bay-zhing” ( w ith the “ zh” like the “ s” in “ pleasure” )rather than “ bay-djing, ” which is closer to the Mandarin. (Interestingly, fo r many European languages, the Peking version is still current: French “ Pddn,” German “ Peking,” Italian “ Pechino.” ) The name Canton for the city was probably based on the name o f the province, Guangdong, rather than the city, Guangzhou. In any case, the city was not called Guangzhou at the time when the name Canton was first applied to it in English.

10. The Pinyin System The system that has become the standard transcription for almost all Chinese­ speaking communities in the world is not one o f those mentioned in Section 9. It is the system called Hanyu Pinyin, literally 'Chinese spelling,9which was developed on the mainland and adopted as the official system there in the late 1950s. Eventually, the rest o f the world followed. Pinyin is now used in most Chinese language-teaching materials and reference books, in library catalogs, on road signs, in U R L addresses (although these may also be in Chinese characters nowadays), and in advertising and other commercial material.

Characters and Pinyin Just as Bopomofo appears as a pronunciation crib for vertically w rit­ ten Chinese characters, pinyin is often added as a pronunciation crib for horizontally w ritten character texts, where it generally appears as isolated syllables w ritten in small print below each character. (M icrosoft Word is available w ith special pinyin and Bopom ofo annotation functions that insert p inyin horizontally below, or Bopom ofo vertically to the right of, each character.)

The Character as a Linguistic Unit For native Chinese, the character is what the linguist Yuen Ren Chao called a “ sociological word,” that is, it has a psychological reality that is reinforced by the importance o f character meaning in literacy. Dictionaries are gener­ ally organized first by characters and then by compounds, although nowa­ days, character entries are often ordered alphabetically by pinyin spelling. In colloquial speech, words— compound or otherwise— are more like ly to be referred to in terms o f zi 'characters9 rather than w ith the more special­ ized term ci 'w o rd / used by linguists and other wordsmiths. For this reason,

16 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Chinese often transcribe characters w ith a space around each syllable rather than around each word.

Transcribing Continuous Speech Pinyin can also be, and is, used for transcribing continuous speech or rep­ resenting written texts. As such, it can be written continuously, w ith fu ll punctuation, either in conjunction w ith a character string or without refer­ ence to characters at all, as in some o f the examples in this book. For good readability, pinyin text needs to demarcate words rather than just syllables and be properly punctuated, as in the follow ing example.

搬起石头砸自己的脚。 Ban qfshi tou za zi ji de jiao, (syllables) Ban qi shitou za ziji de jiao, (words) L ift up stone smash s e ifs foot. ‘ Hoist w ith your own petard.’

Distinguishing Words and Phrases A t times, it is d iffic u lt to distinguish a compound word from an idiomatic phrase in Chinese. Should ban qibQ written as two words, with a space (like the English phrasal verb ulift up,?), or as a single word (banqi), without a space? English is not immune from sim ilar problems: “ o ff base,” as in “ way o ff base” ( meaning “ badly mistaken” )is two words; “ o ff-base” ( meaning “ outside the perimeter” )is hyphenated; and “ offside” ( meaning “ illegally ahead o f the ball/puck” )is written as a single word. Ultim ately, for Chinese transcription, usage has to be modeled after dictionaries and other reference works where pinyin is used.

The Limits of Pinyin A n yth in g that can be understood as spoken text can be transcribed and understood in pinyin, w hich is, after all, a record o f speech. Conversely, noncolloquial material, particularly the very succinct and elaborate styles o f Classical Chinese, w hich cannot be read out and understood, cannot be understood w ritten out in pinyin, either. Continuous pinyin can be found in teaching materials (fo r example, in my own textbook, Learning Chi­ nese), and some excerpts from Chinese colloquial literature have now been transcribed from characters into p inyin as an aid to language learn­ ing. Even in such cases, p in yin has not reached the level o f an orthogra­ phy, w ith a standard spelling that transcends local variation. In American or B ritish English, spelling is standard and does not— except fo r special

Representing Pronunciation


effects— change to reflect particular pronunciations: “ vase” represents B ritish “ vahz” or Am erican “ veys,” fo r example. Pinyin, w hich was conceived as a tool fo r teaching the standard language, indicates standard pronunciation, so variant pronunciations, such as yihuir m dyihuir 4fo r a w h ile ,9are separately indicated.

11. Pronunciation Once learned, pinyin consistently represents pronunciation. However, it was originally intended as a tool for Chinese speakers, so it is not especially transparent for English or other foreign speakers. Some letters do have much the same value in pinyin that they have in English: / , k, /, m, n, p, s, and t, for example. Others, such as c, q, x, z, and zh, have values quite unlike those o f English. S till others have two values, depending on context. Pinyin /, for example, is pronounced “ ee” in 分/ [tehi] (“ tehee” ), but in the syllable z/ “ tsz,” it represents a buzzing sound— a very high front vowel, written [1] in the IPA system (see the fo llo w in g subsection). Pinyin requires some effort to learn, but given its official status and its fam iliarity to both Chinese who have been through the school system and to foreigners who have studied Chinese, it seems the best option for a book like this. The goal o f this section is to give an overview o f the sounds o f Manda­ rin and the way those sounds are represented in pinyin, so that readers not already fam iliar w ith the system can learn to approximate actual pronuncia­ tion when they read out examples.

Approximating Mandarin Sounds The only way to represent sound on the printed page unambiguously is to use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), a system o f symbols whose phonetic values have been established by convention: IPA [i] is always “ ee, ” IPA [u] is always “ oo,” and so on. Unfortunately, IPA may be as unfamiliar as pinyin for many readers o f this book, so in this section, we also provide pronunciation approximations in terms o f typical English spelling: w is like “ oo , ” g/ is like “ tehee,” 纪 is like “ tuh,” and so on. Ultimately, o f course, it w ill be necessary to check your pronunciation w ith that o f a speaker o f standard Chinese.

The Syllable (Initial + Rhyme) The Chinese syllable, spoken or written, is traditionally divided into an initial and a rhyme; the latter is sometimes called a “ final” in linguistic literature. In itia l consonants are represented by one or two letters. In Chinese, there are no consonant clusters, like English “ pi” or “ st.” Pinyin combinations such as ch and sh represent unit sounds, as they do in English.

18 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Rhymes The piny in rhyme is represented by an obligatory vowel (V) and three optional elements: tones (T), four in number; medials (M), three in number; and endings (E), five in number. • Tones are represented by accents above the main vowel, for example, a, a, a, a. • Medials are either /, w, or the rarer ii. • Endings are /, o or «, (always pronounced [q], as in English “sing”). It is helpful to remember “3 medials and 4 endings.” There is actually a fifth ending, w, which appears only in the rhyme ou, an exception that avoids introducing a double letter—oo—into the pinyin system. Vowel o + end­ ing o gives ou rather than oo\ dou, zhou, lou. Initial



M i, u, ii


E i, o/u, n, ng

Rhymes in stressed syllables—those with tone—can consist of V/T (e, t-a, b-i), M + V/T (j-ia, j-ue, n-ue), V/T + E {t-ai, h-ao, t-an, t-ang, and the idiosyncratic d-du), or M + V/T + E {k-uaij-iao, l-ian, q-ian). Notice that if there is more than one vowel letter, the tone mark always goes over the main vowel, defined as “not a medial.” With dw/, w is a possible medial, so / must be the main vowel—hence, dul With diu, i is a possible medial, so u is the main vowel—hence, diu. With hao, a is not a possible medial, so it must be the main vowel (and o is an ending)—hence, hao. Note how much simpler Chinese syllable structure is than that of Eng­ lish, which allows many more consonant clusters than Chinese (for example “str-” as in “strike” and “-xth” [ks0] as in “sixth”). English is said to contain about 8,000 possible syllables, while Chinese has only 1,277—or, if tonal distinctions are ignored, about 400. Initials In the following alphabetical list, the initial consonants of Mandarin are represented in pinyin, with pronunciations represented accurately in IPA (in square brackets) and approximately in terms of English spelling in the third column. The IPA representation includes two nonstandard symbols for “buzzing vowels,” in which the flat of the tongue is so high against the roof of the mouth that little more than a buzz or a hush escapes. One is [i], in which the lips are spread and the tongue is flat (c/ [tshi] “tsz”);the other is [l], in which the lips are pursed and the tongue tip is raised {chi “tchr”). Consonants that are particularly problematic (at least for English speakers) are marked with an asterisk.

Representing Pronunciation

Initial b c* ch d f g h j k l m n P r s sh t w X*

IPA [P] [tsh] [t] [f] [k] [x] [tG] [kh] [1] [m] [n] [Ph] [teh] W

English Hint spell mats choose still f skill Bach jeep k 1 m n P cheese rill s shrill t w sying


[s] [g] [t丨 '] [w] [e] Li]

z* zh*

[ts] [t§]

kids jewel



Comment voiceless but without aspiration as in Russian “tsar” with tongue tip raised voiceless but without aspiration voiceless but without aspiration “h” with slight friction produced at the “y” in “yield”;unvoiced

produced at the “y” in “yield” between the “r” in “rill” and the “z” in “azure” with tongue tip raised, lips pursed

“s” produced at the “y” of “yield” sometimes with a high degree of friction with tongue tip raised, lips pursed

Initials with Select Rhymes Chinese groups the initial consonants in sets (1, 2, 3, and so on), with those articulated in the front of the mouth (at the lips) first, then proceeding by increments toward the throat. Each consonant is provided with a vowel so that it can be pronounced, but because some Mandarin initials co-occur with only certain vowels, the citation vowels vary. Becoming familiar with this table is a good first step in learning the rest of the rhymes. All syllables can be read on the level tone.

1 2 3 4 5 6

A bo [po] de [tx] zi [tsi] zhi [tgl] ji [tei] ge [ky]

B [ph^] te [thy] ci [tshi] chi [t§hl] qi [tchi] ke [khy]


C mo [mo] ne [ny] si [si] shi [§1] xi [ci] he [hy]

D [f〇 ] le [1y]


" [4 ]

Column B in terms of English spelling “pwaw, , “tuh” “tsz” “chr” “chee” “kuh”


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Voiceless Plain Versus Voiceless Aspirate. Examination of the IPA values for columns A and B reveals that the sounds of pinyin b versus /?, d versus t, and so on are not quite like those typically associated with the same pairs of letters in English. In the English pair the distinctive feature is voic­ ing: [b, p]. In the Chinese case, as the IPA symbols show, the pairs are both voiceless ([po], [ph〇]), with the distinctive feature being aspiration (the delay between the release of the lips and the onset of the voiced vowel): [po, pho; ty, thx; and so on]. So why write b/p in pinyin? The answer: because it is easier to type or write b/p than p /p ' (the symbols used by the Wade-Giles system) or p/ph. A simple strategy to adjust to this difference is to produce column B initials more or less as in English (po = “pwaw,” 纪 = “tuh,” and so on), but to articulate column A initials lightly, so as to minimize the voiced mode of articulation characteristic of English: = “bwaw,” with “b” articulated lightly. The Affricates of Rows 3, 4, and 5—the Key Rows. Otherwise, the focus needs to be on rows 3, 4, and 5 of the initials chart. Row 3 represents sounds [ts, tsh], which, despite the fact that they are not found at the beginning of English words, are fairly easy to reproduce. Row 4, on the other hand, repre­ sents sounds described as retroflex, because they are articulated with the tip of the tongue on the back edge of the alveolar ridge (the rough ridge behind the upper teeth), a position that, for many English speakers, is approximately that for the initial consonants of words like “drill,” “trill,” “shrill,” and “rill.” (The h in pinyin zh, ch, and sh, with its long vertical stroke, can serve as a cue to elevate the tongue tip for these sounds.) Row 5 represents sounds that are intermediate between those of rows 3 and 4. Row 5 initials would be very hard to distinguish from rows 3 and 4 were it not for the fact that the vowels that occur with row 5 initials are quite distinct from those of either row 3 or 4. Row 5 initials (/, q, x) can only be followed by the sounds [i] (“ee”) and [ii] (“yu”), written / and w,respectively. The initials of rows 3 and 4, on the other hand, can never be followed by the sounds [i] (“ee”) or [ii] (“yu”) (the letters / and w). Those letters, / and w, are therefore never pronounced “ee” and “yu” with row 3 and 4 initials, only buzzing “i” or “〇〇,’’ as in z/?r and z反 Mastering row 3, 4, and 5 initials with /' and u written vowels is the single most important step you can take in mastering pinyin pronunciation. Test Yourself Here is a short exercise that, if possible, you should do with the help of a Chinese speaker. Examine the following list of syllables, and write them in two groups according to whether their /• vowel is pronounced “ee” or as a buzz—in IPAferms, distinguish [i] and [i/l].

Representing Pronunciation



sh i







zh i

Now, do the same for u. Distinguish those cases of u that are pronounced from those that are pronounced “yu”一 in IPA terms, distinguish [u] and [u]. zu



zh u






Now, read the following syllables aloud. (Tones are present so that they can represent real words to Chinese speakers; however, the focus of the exercise is on the vowels.) To do this efficiently, make sure you keep in mind the contrast between the initials of rows 3 and 4 on the one hand, and those of row 5 on the other. qT xT

si sh i

zh i cl

zi zh i

jT qi

qT si

si chi

ri ji

chi xi

Tones— Names and Representations Tones form an additional component, present in most (but not all) syllables. Mandarin has four tones, with each tone relatively distinct compared to Chinese regional languages, such as Cantonese. Cantonese has six tones in smooth syllables (those ending in a vowel or nasal sound) in two layers of three, one relatively high, one relatively low. It also has three tones in checked syllables (those ending in -p, -t, or -k)\ it is much richer than Man­ darin in consonant endings. Cantonese also has a special morphological tone that is distinct from all the others. Mandarin tones, by contrast, form a sym­ metrical system that nicely fills tonal space: high and low, rising and falling. Mandarin tones can be referred to by number, or descriptively, as follows. Symbol d a a a

Description high (level) rising low falling

Number 1st 2nd 3rd 4th

Concept “sung out” “doubtful” “low” (with rise) “conclusive”

Tone Letter i

Tone Concepts Rather than trying to mimic a drawn contour (of the sort represented by the last column in the chart above), experience has shown that for Chineselanguage learners, concepts can be a more effective prompt for producing correct tonal contours. For English speakers, singing out a first-tone syllable tends to produce a level pitch; for the second tone, uncertainty or doubt tends to produce a rising pitch; for the fourth tone, certainty or conclusive­ ness (for example, 4 in the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4) tends to produce the desired falling pitch. For the third tone, whose citation pitch is usually described as contoured like a V, thinking of it as low rather than falling-rising serves as


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

a safeguard against an early or unwanted rise, particularly when a low-toned syllable is followed by a syllable with high or rising pitch: laoshi (low, then high) 'teacher,9hen mang (low, then rising) 'quite busy.9It is better to think of the third tone as simply low, and then to add a slight rise when there is no closely bound following syllable (as is the case for the final syllable of Hai hao '[Fm] okay9). Paired Tones and the Low-Tone Shift The different pitches of tones are best perceived in pairs of syllables. With four tones, one expects 16 possible pairs, but one combination, low + low, regularly undergoes a shift to rising + low: hen + hao —> hen hao. Thus, there are actually only 15 possible combinations. These are listed below with real words or phrases, so you can ask a Chinese-speaking friend to read them out and then practice them yourself (first by imitating, then by reading them out before hearing them). Variable + high tone Variable + rising tone Variable + low tone Variable + falling tone

jiagao bangmang anhao zhen lei

tigao jimang hai hao bu lei

hen gao hen mang (hen hao) hen lei

bu gao bu mang bit hao shdulei

Other Tone Shifts Other tone shifts in Mandarin only affect individual words. The negative bu, which has falling tone in most contexts, has rising tone before falling tone in close juncture: bu gao, bu mang, bit hao, but bu lei. The numeral 'on e/^/, behaves like bu, except that in citation, it is level tonQ&.yi, er, san '1,2, 3 / Otherwise, like bu, it has rising tone before falling tone, and falling tone before all others: yi zhang, yi tiao, yi ben, but yi fen. Some speakers pronounce qi 479and ba 489with rising tone before falling tone一 qi ge, ba ge—but with level tone in all other cases. Changed tones are not usually written as such in pinyin. For teaching purposes, however, the changes associated with the particular words bu and yi will be indicated in our examples. The third-tone shift, which affects all third-tone words, is not shown; to do so would obscure the original tone of too many words. Thus, we writQ yidianr m d yi ge (rather thm yTdianr andyi ge), bu hao and bu lei (rather than bu lei), but hen hao (rather than hen hao). QT 'T and ba 489are always written with level tone.

Rhymes For purposes of presentation, the rhymes of Chinese are listed below, first by main vowel (written a, e, i, o9u, and w), then by main vowel plus ending (V + /, o/w, n, ng), and finally, with the medials added to the mix. The examples may all be regarded as level tone. As with initials, the pronunciation of rhymes

Representing Pronunciation


is given in IPA transcription (in square brackets) and, as much as possible, in terms of English spelling. (In the English Hint column, syllables that do not actually occur in English are cited in quotation marks, for example,“tahn.”) Especially problematical items are marked with an asterisk. A-Rhymes 1 a 2 a -i a -o 3 4 a-n 5 a -n g 6 i-a 7 i-ci-o 8* i-a-n i-a -n g 9 10 u-a 11 u -a-i 12 u-a-n



English Hint


[a] [ai] [a〇] [an]

ta ta i kao tan gang

ta[rp] tie cow short “tahn” “gahng” “jyah” “jy[h]〇w” “jyen” “jyahng” “hwah” “chw-eye” “hwahn” “ch-yu-an” “hwahng”

never as in “tap”

[*a] [iao] [ien] [iaq] [ua] [uai] [uan] [uan] u -a-n g [uaq]


E-Rhymes 14 e 15 e -i 16 e-n 17 e-n g 18 w e-n g 19 i-e 20* u-e

jie ju e , lue

“jyeh” “j-yu-weh,” “1-yu-weh”


_ -

Lee gene “jeeng” “d-way” “dz” “jr”


_ •n r —I •t i r]L v L •[ [ [

_— l w

J W z 7 z / / i

(iw -u h -n g ,}

to ^


r国 、 L



s o



9 2




n - ^


0 1 3 3


l l

--] ] u

8 2

r Lur L Lr o_ ur . uL i

7 2

/ / • •m


c nK

0 M 0 « g / o W o

rhymes with “why” like Spanish “Juan”

“juh” jay “juhn” lung

7 / A 2

« g

h y

rhymes with “how”

zh e zh e i zhen len g w eng

n l

u e

.T ^

1 2 3 4 5 6 2 2 2 2 ** 2 2


[3] [ei] [sn] N] [waq] [ie] [lie]

jia jia o jia n jia n g hua ch u ai huan quart huang

never as in “tan” never as in ‘‘gang’ ,

“bwaw” Joe “joong” “jyong” “dwaw”

rhymes with “way”


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar



U-Rhymes 32 u 33* u-n 34* i-u

shu [u] shun [un] [iu ~ io] qiu

35* u 36 u-n

[U] [Un]

XU qun

English Hint shoe “shwoon” “chyoo”


between “you” and “yo”

“syoo” “chyoon”

The r-Ending In addition to the two final consonants n and ng, there is also a retroflex ending, -r, which appears in only a small number of words (or morphemes) pronounced -er. The most common of these are e r (H ) 4two,5e r ( ^ ) 'ear,9 and Sr ( 儿 )‘child.’ The - r Suffix The last example above, er ( JL) 'child/ is also the source of an -r suffix fre­ quently added to everyday nouns (rarely to verbs) in the speech of Beijing and other northern areas (see Section 26). This suffix affects the syllable in ways too complicated to fully enumerate here. Here is an example: y id ia n 'a bit, a little, is pronounced with the -r suffix in northern speech. The combi­ nation is pronounced without the final nasal ^yidiar"), but pinyin conven­ tion writes y id ia n r so that r-less speakers can recover the underlying form and pronounce it simply Here are a few more examples. • p/wg + ‘bottle,’ pronounced “py3nr”;otherwise, p/wgz/ in southern Mandarin • x in g ren + e r ^ - x in g re n r 'apricot kernel; almond,5pronounced uxingr9r,9; otherwise, xin gren • & — wd/zwfr ‘nipple of a feeding bottle,’ pronounced “naizusr”; otherwise, n a izu i (The colloquial word n a izu o zi is also used.)

3 The Writing System

With other languages, discussion of the writing system might be consigned to an appendix. But for many people both Chinese and non-Chinese alike— characters characterize Chinese. This is partly because of the beauty and intricacy of the symbols, but it is also because, unlike the letters of alpha­ betic systems such as those used for English, Russian, Hebrew, and Hindi, Chinese characters for the most part combine sound with meaning, giving them a superficial identification with words and making it seem that learning the language is simply a matter of learning the meaning (and pronunciation) of a critical mass of characters (say, 4,000). In this chapter, characters are examined in terms of their origin, their function, and their form. 一

12. The Origin of Characters Characters directly ancestral to modem forms appeared at least as early as the fourteenth century BCE, with the oracle inscriptions ( 甲 骨 文 y/dgzJwA?) of the late Shang dynasty. Traditionally, the Chinese have distinguished six types of character formation, only four of which bear on the actual form of the character. The historical details are often complicated, but the modern learner can discern the four types in the form of modem characters. Of the four original types, two apply to simplex characters and two, to compound characters (those with two components). Simplex characters can be pictorial (e.g. 門 ‘door’ and 魚 ‘fish’一 with fins down). They can also be indicative— a subtype of pictorial (上 ‘up’ and 下 ‘down’). Compound characters—the other two types—can be synthetic, combining two simplex characters in a blended whole ( 好 Mo ‘good’ with 女 ‘woman’ and 子 ‘son’—which can be interpreted as the prototype of “goodness” ) . And they can be phonosemantic, combining a sound element and a semantic element: 清 qTng ‘clear’ and 情 qing ‘emotions’ consist of a phonetic character,青 , pronounced qTng on its own, and semantic elements f 6water9(a clear fluid) and f 'heart5(the source of emotion) (cf. §14, 15, for details). Learners often find pictorial 25


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

form in characters regardless o f their actual history, beginning w ith graphs like 哭 如 ‘ cry,’ which seems to show a crying eye, and 电出3/7 ‘electricity ,’ w hich looks like an electric plug. But once a critical mass o f characters is acquired, patterns o f phonetic regularity found in sets o f phonosemantic graphs prove more useful (see Section 14).

13. The Function of Characters Characters represent syllables. In some cases, they represent syllables that are also words (indicated in pinyin by spaces), fo r e xa m p le , 黄 河 入 海 流 Huang He ru hai liu ('Y e llo w River enter sea flo w 9). In many cases, however, they represent syllables that are components o f w o rd s : 东 西 亦 《 取/ ‘ thing’ ( w ith characters that would otherwise be glossed ‘ east’ and ‘west’ ); 似 乎 57'/ ^ ‘ seem, look lik e ’ ( w ith a character for ‘seem’ and another that represents a Classical Chinese p a rtic le ); 蝴蝶 ‘butterfly’ ( w ith characters unique to the compound); l®| hutdngr 'a lle y 9(w ith characters chosen only fo r their sound, but which are otherwise used fo r ‘ nonsense’ and ‘ same’ ). The last example, a loanword from Manchu, illustrates the way foreign words, place names, and personal names can be represented in Chinese : 咼 尔 夫 扣 ‘ g o lf,’ 符 拉 迪 沃 斯 托 克 ‘V ladivostok,’ and 备里高利.派克 加 /z' ‘ Gregory Peck.’ In such cases, the choice o f characters is motivated mainly by sound. But in other cases, particularly in the names o f countries, sound and meaning may complement each other. T h u s , 德国 ‘ Germany,’ 法国 Fdgwd ‘ France, ’ and 英 国 } B r ita in 5are represented in Chinese w ith characters that fit the first sylla­ ble o f the foreign w ord (de For Deutschland, fa fo r France, and ym g for England) w hile also conveying a respectful meaning: 4the countries o f de ‘ virtue,’ / ^ ‘ law,’ a n d ‘ heroes.’

Characters as Morphemes (Minimal Units of Meaning) Despite the frequency o f cases in which the meaning o f individual characters is irrelevant, it is true that almost all characters can, w ith analysis, be asso­ ciated w ith a meaning and are therefore not only syllables, but morphemes. Character dictionaries (zk //如 “character-records’), which list entries by char, acter, provide a record o f such meanings. For characters that do not represent words in the modem language, however, core meanings must be inferred from the compounds in which they occur or from earlier stages o f the language (represented in part by Classical Chinese), when more morphemes functioned as words. In effect, literate and highly educated speakers o f Chinese are more likely to know the meanings o f individual characters in compounds such as 乎幻7 ^ ‘ seem, , look like’ or even 宇典 zW/如 ‘dictionary,’ where the second character never appears as an independent word in the modem language. The

The Writing System


best that can be said is that for Chinese, there is always an assumption that a character is or was at some time a meaningful unit—a morpheme.

14. The Form of Characters Characters are formed from about a dozen basic strokes, each of which is written with a conventional gesture that is defined by onset and direction. Some of the strokes are primarily horizontal or vertical in orientation, while others are hooked, curved, or bent. Most are drawn from left to right, although a few falling strokes are right to left. Characters may be composed of a single stroke ( 乙 ) or several dozen (爨 ) .The average number of strokes for the 2,000 commonly used characters is reported to be 11.2 for the tradi­ tional set and 9 for the simplified.1

Character Components The immediate constituents of characters are not strokes, but compo­ nents, which are made up of clusters of strokes. Some characters are composed of only one component, but most are composed of two, orga­ nized horizontally, vertically, or concentrically, as the following exam­ ples illustrate. = 女 W next to 子 i = J (a combining form of /K s h u t) next to 可M 墨 md ‘ink’ = 土 极 below 黑办泛/ 因少沩 ‘cause’ = 大 必 inside 口 wS/ 羞 x/" ‘shy’ = ch du below (a skewed) ^ y a n g 鸠 ‘turtle dove’ = 九 before 鸟 好 hdo ‘good’ M he


The components to the right of the equals signs are, or have at some time been, simplex characters. Such characters tend to be representational in origin, although it is often necessary to trace them back to their earliest extant forms to perceive this. Thus, 女 ‘female’ originally represented a (kneeling) woman, 羊 ‘goaf depicted the head of a goat, and 鸟 (traditional 鳥 ) portrayed a bird.

Phonetic Sets In modem Chinese, the majority of characters are composite, with parts that can be identified with two simplex characters. As such, they are once

'Goonetilleke, Ravindra S., W. C. Lau, and Heloisa M. Shih. "Visual search strategies and eye movements when searching Chinese character screens.” 〇/ Human-Computer Studies (2002) 57, 448-49.


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

w w m m

幕 慕 墓 募 暮 模

m w

、w ' ; s' w ' w ' w , "

removed from any pictorial origins. In fact, most (but not all) composite characters originated as phonosemantic compounds, with one component representing sound and the other classifying the character along very general dimensions of meaning. The process that gave rise to such characters has often been obscured by historical changes in the form and pronunciation of characters. But in some cases, it has left a clear residue of “phonetic sets” like the following. ‘screen’ ‘long for’ ‘grave’ ‘summon, "sunset5 ‘pattern,

二 = = = = =

莫 莫 莫 莫 莫 莫

+ + + + + +

巾 心 土 力 日 木

‘cloth, ‘heart’ 4ground’ ‘strength’ ‘sun’ ‘wood; tree’

The six characters in this set all consist of a constant,旲 , and a variable ( 巾 , ^6, and so on). The constant correlates with pronunciation; the variables dif­ ferentiate meaning—hence, the term “phonosemantic.” They can be “read” as follows:幕 ,the 莫 (m々) associated with 巾 ‘cloth,’ that is, ‘screen’;慕 , the 莫 associated with 心 ‘heart,’ that is, 'long for’;and so on. Note that in the spoken language, the ambiguity is resolved by compounding, for example, ymmu 'screen [for films]/ xianmu 'envy/ and fenmu 'grave.5 Native speakers are very adept at reading the phonetic hints to be found in composite characters. Learners need to adopt the same strategies, observing a phonetic element such as M mu, then trying it out as an element in a com­ pound (for example, ^ ^ xianmu), and finally settling on a meaning that fits the context (‘envy’). Phonetic Loans The process that has given rise to phonetic sets in Chinese involved two steps. In the first step, a character representing one word is used to repre­ sent a word of the same or similar pronunciation. For example, M, which is thought to have originally depicted the sun ( 日) setting over the horizon (that is, ‘sunset’X is extended or borrowed to represent another meaning, a negative (4not9) that is nowadays pronounced mo, not mu. The new word may have been an extension of the ‘setting’ meaning along the lines of ‘set’ — ‘disappear’ — ‘not,’ in which case the character absorbed a new sense. Or 莫 may simply have been borrowed because its original sound was very close to that o f ‘not/ (Originally, the two words were closer in pronunciation than modem mu 'sunsef and mo 'not/) In either case, the new arrangement solved the problem of how to create a symbol for such an abstract notion as “not,” and it did so in a way that did not add to the already large repertoire of characters.

The Writing System


The extension of 莫 solved one problem, but it introduced a new one: ambiguity. Unmodified,莫 would have signaled (at least) two words, ‘sunset’ and 'not.9Written languages can tolerate a certain degree of ambiguity; wit­ ness the ambiguity of English tlead, and 'can9: each can be a verb and a noun of entirely unrelated meanings. But if Chinese wanted to make extensive use of phonetic loans, at some point there needed to be some way of distinguish­ ing one meaning from another. The solution was to add an additional element, a semantic hint. Plain 莫 was used for ‘not,’ but to signal ‘sunset’ (the original meaning, as it happens),莫 was augmented by 日 6sun’ to give 暮 • For ‘screen,’ 莫 was augmented by 巾 4cloth’ to give 幕 ,and so on. Economy of symbols is preserved, and ambiguity is resolved. Imperfect Phonetic Sets Unfortunately, what began as a frugal method of expanding the repertoire of symbols was, in many cases, muddied by processes of historical change that saw the sound of some members of a set diverge from others (for example, 莫 versus 暮 As a result, lots of “phonetic sets” in the modem lan­ guage look more like the following one, based on 分 /?/?• 粉 fen

纷 扮 fen ban

颁 ban

盆 盼 pen pan

What were presumably differences in pronunciation too small to hinder the original borrowing have diverged considerably over time. Nevertheless, the sounds remain easily relatable: /, b, and p are all labials, and e and a are fairly similar vowels. Although the pronunciations of individual members of such sets are not as predictable as the mu set, the range of variation is usually narrow and the experienced learner (and certainly the native reader) will be able to “read” the hints. For 纷 纷 (the reduplicative adverbial form is more common), the silk radical on the left suggests, among other things, fine, numerous, tangled, while the phonetic element 分 on the right suggests options like jen, ban, pan, and so on, enough to help you recall Jenfen 4in succession; confused; numerous9(as in people 'dropping like flies9from the heat or rising ‘one after the other’ to speak). In this way, Chinese characters do contain phonetic information, but not in a highly systematic and reli­ able form. (English, of course, has its nonsystematic features, too; consider words like “to,” “too,” and “two.”)

15. Dictionaries Chinese characters are not, of course, amenable to alphabetical ordering. So how are words and names to be accessed efficiently in dictionaries, library


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

catalogs, and telephone directories? The traditional solution was inspired by the predominance of composite characters. All characters were assigned a classifying element, usually called a t6radicar, in English (Chinese biishou). For compound characters, the radical was usually the semantic determinative (for example, 巾 in 幕 and 土 in 墓 ), which is itself usually a simplex character or a combining form of a simplex character. A simplex character that was not a radical itself had one of its strokes or parts designated as radical: Thus, 天 was assigned — ,也 was assigned 乙 (reflecting an earlier form of the character), and 美 was assigned 羊 .

Looking Up Characters Once every character is assigned a radical, radicals can be ordered by number of strokes ( — before 力 ,土 ,雨 , and so on), and characters can be grouped under their radical and ordered by number of additional strokes. Thus, 帖 would be under 5 strokes in radical 巾 ( itself placed among three-stroke radicals). The 巾 set would include the following, in the order given. 巾 帆 帐 帖 帛 带

the plain radical + 3 strokes + 4 strokes + 5 strokes + 5 strokes + 6 strokes

‘doth’ ‘sail’ ‘canopy’ (extended to mean ‘accounts’) 'card, invitation9 ‘silk’ ‘belt, ( extended to mean ‘bring’)

Meanings of Radicals Radicals have very general meanings, such as ‘person’ (人 ),‘female’ (女 ), ‘water’ (水 ) , and ‘bird’(鸟 )• Historical change in the meaning of a particular character has often obscured the original impetus for a particular radical. Thus, iX Han 'the Han people, Chinese9contains the water radical because the Han were originally associated with the Han River in central China•别 ‘other; don’t’ contains the ‘knife’ radical (with the citation form 刀 ),probably as a metaphor for ‘separation’ (extended to ‘other’ and ‘prohibition’). In the modern language, radicals function more to distinguish one character from another than to provide semantic information; in other words, 汉 is not 叹 a n d 别 is n o t拐 .

Number of Radicals The great Kangxi Dictionary of 1716 catalogued all characters under 214 radicals, a number that was standard until recent times. Before the adoption of the simplified set (see Section 18), students of Chinese would learn the more common radicals by number so they could go to the appropriate sec­ tion of the dictionary without checking the radical tables: the water radical

The Writing System


(?) was No. 85, the s ilk radical ( 糸)was No. 120, and so on. W ith the for­ malization o f sim plified characters cm the mainland in the 1950s, both the number o f radicals and, in some cases, the assignment o f radicals to particular characters underwent changes.

Alphabetization by Pinyin Many Chinese-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-foreign dictionaries nowadays list characters in order o f their pinyin pronunciation, making alphabetical lookup possible. However, they generally list compound words under the entry o f the in itia l character; thus, the compound (汽水 )‘ carbonated d rin k’ ( ‘ gas-water’)is to be found under gz' ( 汽)‘ air, gas,’ along w ith other compounds lik e 《icAJ ( 汽 车 )‘ automobile’ and w'eAwdw ( 汽 船 )‘ steamship,’ but n o t ( 启程 )‘ start on a journey’ o r 《fc to ( 起初 )4at first ,originally,5 which begin w ith different characters. In addition, Chinese diction­ aries, even i f organized around characters, generally only list compounds beginning w ith the citation characters, not compounds in which the character is in a second or later position: thus ,汽 水 你 t o r and 汽 车 批 以 are under the entry but not shuiqi 'vapor9 or zhengqi 'steam,9 which have 汽 in the second position— these would be under the entries 水 and respectively. A few early dictionaries, such as Mathews' ChineseEnglish Dictionary, published in 1943, list all compounds, headfirst or not, under the citation character— a good reason to make occasional use o f these dictionaries still. O nly the ABC Chinese-English Dictionary offers alphabetical sorting by pinyin irrespective o f head character. In th e ^ S C s strict alphabetical sorting, 抑 缸 ( 汽车 )and 加 (汽船 ) w ould be separated b y ( 启程 ) and qichu TJ5), despite the fact that the latter two begin w ith different charac­ ters. The ABC is the only dictionary that allows words that are overheard, but for which the initial character is unknown, to be looked up— provided they can be transcribed in pinyin. For characters whose pronunciation is not already known, dictionaries w ith entries ordered by pronunciation still provide the means to look up words by identifying the radical, then searching ordered lists. O f course, the need for dictionaries has been reduced for all but specialized w ork by com­ puter lookup functions that give pronunciation, meaning, sample sentences, and much more, on demand.

16. Number of Characters Chinese characters number in the thousands. The Kangxi Dictionary, men­ tioned in Section 15, is said to contain more than 47,000 characters, although


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

that enormous number includes archaic characters found in classical works dating back thousands of years, as well as variant forms in use before stan­ dardization of the written language. Modem dictionaries often have entries for 7,000 to 8,000 individual characters—and thousands more compounds. The works of Mao Zedong, intended for the masses rather than the intelligen­ tsia, are said to make use of only 2,900 characters. The number needed for extensive reading in different genres of contemporary literature, however, is much higher, with 5,000 to 6,000 often cited as “educated.” Even 3,000, a level to which the foreign student can aim, is a staggeringly large number for rote learning, which is why learners need to focus on using phonetic hints and context.

Forming New Characters Characters are, in principle, an open set. New characters can be created, and phonosemantic principles are almost always involved in their creation. Here is an example from the periodic table of chemical elements. Element Helium Neon Argon

Full Character 氨 hdi 氛 氩少d

Radical 气 g i ‘gas’ 气 q i 6gas’ 气 W ‘gas’

Phonetic 亥 Jb M i 亚 W

Characters for the three gases, hai 'helium,5nai 'neon/ m d y a cargon, (for which characters have been formed in relatively recent times) are composed of the radical % 4gas9plus phonetic elements homophonous with the com­ posite characters: % hai, 75 nai, and® ya. In the spoken language, these characters would form compounds with 气 g/' ‘gas,:氨 气 'helium gas,, and so on—providing context for the 4gas5readings. For technical terms, read­ ers can be more confident that the phonetic elements are reliable guides to pronunciation. A less regulated form of character creation can be found in some of the onomatopoeic words found in Chinese comics (漫 圆 wdw/zwd). Examples are 咔 啦 給 而 ‘clip-clop,’ with phonetic elements 卡 給 and 达 而 ,and 叮 嘻 必 wg ‘jingle-jangle’ (noise of keys, coins, etc.), with 丁 and 當 dang.

17. The Reading Process The Chinese w ritin g system is often characterized as logographic, from the Greek roots meaning “ word w ritin g ”:characters generally represent wordlike units, or, more precisely, morphemes. People do not read in morphemes, however, but in words or phrasal units. It is more accurate, therefore, to say

The Writing System


that characters function syllabographically, representing syllables that form words• 东 西 , with individual characters that mean ‘east’ and ‘west,’ would have to be read as syllables (dong-xT) before the context assigned the mean­ ing 'thing9and the pronunciation dongxi to the compound, with only a dubi­ ous relationship to the root meanings of'east9and 'west.9

Reliance on Sound For learners, who are likely to be less familiar with the range of meanings associated with individual characters in compounds, the reading process is even more likely to depend on the assignment of sound before the rec­ ognition of meaning. This is a good argument for letting written-language learning lag behind spoken-language learning, so that character learning can focus on recognition and parsing, without introducing the added complica­ tions of learning new vocabulary, grammar, and usage. After all, Chinese, when they begin to study characters, already speak and are experts on the top-down process of using context when they read.

Are Chinese Characters Ideographic? One also hears the term “ideographic” applied to Chinese characters, with the implication that reading involves the direct perception of character meaning without reference to sound. (This is a claim that characters are like the Arabic numerals— 1, 2, 3, and so on—that can be understood when they appear in foreign languages even when their pronunciation is unknown.) Proponents of this view often point to the fact that Classical Chinese—particularly clas­ sical poems—can be understood (more or less) by Japanese (whose written language makes use of graphs originally developed for Chinese) or Koreans (who continue to make use of characters in places where succinctness is valuable—in newspaper headlines, on signs, and in advertisements). How­ ever, Classical Chinese poetry is a special genre, employing concrete images and pared-down syntax. The fact that Japanese and Korean natives can make out the meaning of Classical Chinese is, in fact, no stranger than English speakers’ being able to figure out the meaning of a phrase such as “horreur, labeur dur et forc^’’ (‘horror, hard and forced labor,’ from Baudelaire’s poem “Chant d’automne’,) without knowing how to pronounce French.

Reading as Chunking The main argument against the notion that Chinese characters are ideographs is that reading does not take place at the level of morphemes (except perhaps very occasionally when there is ambiguity to resolve). Reading requires chunking of speech into words and larger units before meaning can be inferred. Because sound is much more concrete than character meaning—sound conjures up a


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

word, while meaning is dependent on situation (remember the dongxi example above)—it is much more efficient to chunk by sound than by character meaning.

18. Traditional and Simplified Characters In current use, many characters, but far from all, have two forms, traditional and simplified; an example is the traditional form 中國 and the simplified form 中国 for ‘China.’ The traditional (or complex) set makes use of the clerical script that has been the primary medium of printed and other formal written communication for almost 2,000 years. The set is written top to bottom and right to left. Nowadays, the traditional set has official status in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and many overseas communities. Its long history, as well as its association with classical writing, gives the traditional set a prestige that accounts for its occasional use on the mainland in formal corre­ spondence, for example, in wedding invitations, ceremonial engravings, and business cards. Long before Chinese characters were standardized, however, they were subject to simplification and change.

The Simplified Set The simplified set of characters is official on the mainland and in Singapore. The simplified set are written left to right (like English). The reason it was so easily accepted on the mainland after official promulga­ tion in the mid-1950s, is that, to a large degree, it made use of what had been informal simplified forms long used in calligraphic practice and other forms of handwriting. While the two scripts continue to symbolize political positions— — right versus left, traditional versus modern一 literate Chinese, even if they have trouble remembering how to write both pre­ cisely, can read both without much difficulty. Many students of Chinese also learn to read both, though most now probably write the simplified set, since it is standard on the mainland and is supposedly simpler.

The Costs of Simplification It is worth noting that what makes the simplified set easier to write一 fewer strokes—can make it harder to read, by making otherwise distinct characters look very similar. As an example, traditional 東 (亦 ‘east’) and 樂 (/S ‘happiness’ /少以 ‘music’) are quite distinct, but their simplified versions, 东 and 乐,are easy to conflise. On the other hand, a few characters are better differentiated in the simplified set; for example, the nearly identical # shu and 晝 are 书 and 昼 in the simplified set.

The Writing System


The simplification of characters in modem times, as well as throughout history, has also exacted a cost in ordered phonetic sets. Thus, meteorologi­ cal characters that contain M yu 4rain, as the radical in the traditional set show variation in the simplified set, some retaining 雨 ,some n o t:雪 jcwd ‘snow’ remains 雪 in the simplified s e t;霧 ‘fog’ becomes 雾 (still with the 雨 radical), but 雲 少 如 ‘cloud, is reduced to 石 (thereby merging with the original ^ yun, a formal word for 4say, speak9).

Principles and Limits of Simplification As the example of S xue 'snow9shows, not all characters have two forms. In fact, not only are there quite common complicated characters with only one form (for example, 籍 / / ‘nationality’), but there are characters that retain a large number of strokes even after simplification (for example, ! | • Si yong). In general, the more common the character, the larger the distinction between traditional and simplified versions tends to be; compare 個 and 个 for the common classifier and 頭 and 头 for /dw ‘head, (which is also a suffix in common location words). Often, the simplification process involved omitting parts:電 电 and 從 从 . Sometimes, only the radicals are simplified:話 • 话 and 錯 错 . Chinese readers can usually switch between simplified and traditional sets with little effort. One could argue that the linguistic differ­ ences in reading the two scripts (not writing them) are more on the scale of uppercase versus lowercase letters in English (for example, A • a and G • g), or handwriting versus print.

4 Sentences and Sentence Processes

19. Topic-Comment In English, sentences typically have a bipartite structure, with a subject, cor­ responding notionally to what is being discussed, and a predicate, corre­ sponding to what is said about the subject. The subject has a high profile in English : it determines the form of the verb (“I agree” versus “She agrees”), it shifts position in questions (“He does” versus “Does he?’’), and it leaves a token of its presence even when it has no reference—in words such as “it” (“It’s raining”) and “there” (“There’s still time”). Chinese sentences also have a bipartite structure, but in the case of Chi­ nese, the subject has a smaller grammatical profile. There is no agreement with the verb; the subject does not shift position in questions; it can be omit­ ted altogether; and, significantly, it can be offset from the rest of the sentence with pause particles, such as 啊 a and 呢 狀 . 叔叔呢,是牙医。

|| s h iy a y i. My uncle, he9s a dentist. Shushu ne,

In this respect, subjects in Chinese are a kind of disjunct, like initial time, location, and “as for” phrases in English, which are typically offset from the rest of the sentence and require reiteration with a pronoun: “Today, it’s raining heavily” and “As for China, it’s changing rapidly.” The looser linkage in Chinese is reflected in the preference for the more discourse-oriented terms “topic” and “comment” over the grammatical terms “subject” and “predicate.” (As long as one agrees on the properties, either pair of terms can be used.) Comparing the following Chinese sentences with their English coun­ terparts illustrates the broad latitude that is acceptable between subject and predicate—or topic and comment—in Chinese.



Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

外国烟,劲儿比较大。 W aigud y a n \ \jin r [te jd r ] b ijia o da.

Foreign cigarettes, strength relatively big. ‘Foreign cigarettes are stronger.’ 哎, 中国变化真大呀。 Ai, Zhongguo \\ bianhua zhen daya. Wow, China changes really big sfp . ‘Wow, China’s really undergoing big changes!’ 好嘞,这个保准您满意。 Hao lei, zhei ge \\ baozhunr nin manyi. Good sfp, this M assure you be-satisfied. ‘Okay, [I] guarantee you’ll be happy with this.’ 今天下大雨。 Jintian 11xia da yii. Today falls big rain. ‘It’s raining heavily today.’ 鱼已经买回来了。 Yii 11yijing mai huilai le. Fish already buy return-come le . ‘[We] already bought the fish [and brought it back].’ Another reflection of looser linkage between Chinese subject and predi­ cate is that verbs in Chinese often allow active or passive readings. Chenghu ‘address,’ for example, can correspond to English “to address” or “to be addressed.” 请问,您怎么称呼? Qmgwen, nin || zenme chenghu? Please-ask, you how address. ‘How are you to be addressed, please?’ 大家都称呼我魏老师。 Dajia \\ ddu chenghu wo Wei laoshi. People all address me Wei teacher. ‘People call me “Wei laoshi.’’’ Here is an ambiguous example from Yuen Ren Chao^ 1968 A Grammar o f Spoken Chinese. 这鱼不能吃了。 Zhe yu \ \b u neng chi le. This fish not able eat le. ‘This fish can’t be eaten.’ or ‘This fish can’t eat.’

Sentences and Sentence Processes


Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions of the following sentences. Hint: Where English uses “has/have,” Chinese often starts with a topic phrase set off internationally. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Shanghai has a lot of tall buildings, (dalou 'buildings5) China^ population is very large, (renkdu 'population9) This dish has a strange flavor, (weidao 'flavor,9qiguai 'strange9) One of our classmates went to elementary school in Shanghai.

Possible Answers 1. Shanghai, dalou hen dud. 2. Zhongguo, renkdu hen dud. 3. Zhe cai, weidao hen qiguai. 4. Women de tdngxue, yi ge zai Shanghai shang de xiaoxue.

20. Other Aspects of Word Order Location and Destination Phrases Location一 the locus of the action一 precedes the verb (see Section 35), while destination or goal follows the verb (see Section 65). Compare the following pairs of sentences. 她在邮局工作。 Ta zai youju gongzud. (location) She at post-office works. 4She works at the post office.5 . 都得带到邮局。 Ddu dei dai dao youju. (destination) All must take to post-office. ‘[They] all need to be taken to the post office.’ 铁锅在炉子上烧热。 Tiegud zai luzi shang shaore. (location) Iron-pan at stove on heat-hot. ‘The wok’s heating on the stove.’ 把锅放在炉子上烧热。 Ba gud fang zai luzi shang shaore. (destination) Take pan put at stove on heat-hot. ‘Put the pan on the stove and heat it up.’ One exception involves going and coming, in which the destination can be expressed directly after the verb or indirectly with a preposition before the verb.


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

他去麦加朝圣。 Ta qu Maijia chaosheng. He go Mecca face-sacred. 6He went on a pilgrimage to Mecca.9

他到麦加去朝圣。 Ta dao Maijia qu chaosheng. He to Mecca go face-sacred.

Time-When, Duration, Extent, and Measure Phrases Time-when phrases precede the verb (in sentence-initial position or after the subject) (see Section 36); duration, extent, and measure phrases follow the verb as part of the predicate, usually preceding object1 noun phrases, if present (see Section 70 for duration phrases and Section 71 for extent and measure complements). 我们七点吃早点。 Wdmen qi dian chi zaodian. (time of event) We seven o9clock eat breakfast. ‘We eat breakfast at seven o’clock., 以后我们多多来往,加强联系。 Yihou women duddud laiwang, jiaqiang lianxi. (time of event) Later we more-more come-and-go, increase contact. cIn the future, let us have more contact and strengthen our ties.5 你们学了几年了? Nimen xuele ji nian le?

只学了一年。 Zhi xuele yi nian. (duration)

You-all study-LE how-m any years le?

Only study-LE one year.

4How many years have you been studying [Chinese]?5

‘Only one year.’

我 们 也 学 了 一 年 (的 ) 曰 语 。 Wdmen ye xuele yl nian (de) Rlyii. (duration) We also study-LE one year ( de ) Japanese. ‘W e’ve also studied a year’s Japanese.’

我们打了三场球,输了两场。 Wdmen dale san chang qiu, shule liang chang. (measure complement) We played-LE three fields ball, lose-LE two fields. 4We played three games and lost two.9

Adverbial Clauses Before Main Clauses Conditional (“i f ,), causal (“because”), adversative (“although”), and other types of subordinate clauses generally precede main clauses in Chinese. In a language without case (“he” versus “him”), without a clear active-passive distinction, and with the flexible word order o f topic-comment organization, the term “object” is best left loosely defined as a noun phrase that appears after the verb as the goal o f verbal action.

Sentences and Sentence Processes


你要是没电脑,可以去网吧发电子邮件。 Niyaoshi mei diannao, keyi qu wangba fa dianzi youjian. (conditional clause) You if not-have computer, can go Internet-cafe send electronic mail. 'If you don't have a computer, you can e-mail from an Internet cafe.9 虽然父母是中国人,但是他没去过中国。 SuTranfumu shi Zhongguoren, danshi ta mei quguo Zhongguo. (adversative clause) Although parents be Chinese, but he not-have gone-ever to China. ‘Although his parents are Chinese, he’s never been to China.’ English, by manipulating intonation—particularly high and low pitch— allows adverbial clauses to precede or follow main clauses, so that “You can e-mail from an Internet ca保 if you don’t have a computer” is also possible. Chinese requires the use of specially marked constructions to do the same. By and large, the subordinate clause precedes the main clause.

21. Questions Chinese has several ways to ask questions.

Yes-No Questions Questions seeking a “yes” or “no” response are signaled by toneless sentence-final particles ( sfps), the most common of which is ma. 好吃吗? Haochi ma? ‘It’s tasty, huh?’

很好吃。 Hen haochi. 4Very.9

你去吗? Ni qii ma? 4Are you going? ,

我不去。 Wo bu qii. ‘No, I’m not•’

一个人吗? Yi ge ren ma? ‘One person?’

是的。 Shi de. ‘Yes.,

Verb-Not-Verb Questions Afo-questions anticipate a confirmatory response. Entirely neutral yes-no questions are cast as alternative questions, in the verb-not-verb pattern. 你去不去? Ni qii bu qu? ‘Are you going (or not)?’

我不去。 Wo bu qu. ‘No, I’m not.’


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

学中文难不难? 很难,我觉得。 Xue Zhongwen nan bu nan? Hen nan, wd juede. ‘Is learning Chinese difficult (or not)?, 'Quite difficult, I feel.9

Follow-Up Questions Follow-up questions can be asked with the sfp ne 曰文呢? 学 曰文难不难 ? Riwen ne? Xue Riwen nan bu nan? ‘And Japanese? Is Japanese difficult to learn?’

也很难。 Ye hen nan. ‘Yes, it’s difficult, too.’

Content Questions Content questions are formed with question words, illustrated in the follow­ ing short examples. 是什么意思? Shi shenme yisi? ‘What does that mean?’ 你为什么不去? Niweishenme bu qii? ‘Why aren’t you going?’ 什么时候走? Shenme shihou zdu? ‘When are you leaving?’ 是多少钱? Shi dudshao qian? ‘How much is it?’ 有几本? Ydu ji ben? > 6How many [books] do you have?9 谁是下一个? Shei shi xia yi ge? ‘Who’s next?’ 是谁的? Shi shei ~ shut de? ‘Whose is it?’

Sentences and Sentence Processes

哪个? Nei ge? ‘Which one?’


那个。 Nei ge. ‘That one.’

去哪儿啊?〜 去 哪 里 ? Qii ndr a ? 〜 Qii ndli? 'Where are you going?9 你怎么去? Nizenme qu? ‘How are you getting there?’ Note that weishenme has a more formal alternative, hebl (M ^ ) 'why must9 ('how-necessary9); shenme has a colloquial alternative, sha (D^); and shei is pronounced shut by some speakers—possibly more in the north and northeast. Question words in Chinese are not placed at the beginning of a sentence, as they generally are in English. In English, a question and its response tend not to have the same order of elements: “Where to? / To Oz!” In Chinese, a question and its response have the same basic word order: Qu nar a? / Qu Beijing, and Zhao shei a? / Zhao Wei laoshT.

Alternative Questions questions involve options. In Chinese, these are formed with haishi 是 , which means ‘still’ in other contexts. The first option may be followed by a pause: 还 是 中 餐 ? Ni xiang chTxlcdn , haishi zhongcan? fcDo you want to eat Western food or Chinese food?9

我们在中国,还是吃中餐好。 Women zai Zhongguo, haishi chi zhongcan hao. ‘We’re in China; we should eat Chinese food.’

If “or” does not indicate a choice (that is, if no pause is possible between the options), the conjunction hudzhe ( ^ ) or hudshi ( Je ) is used, whether in a statement or in a question (see Section 72). 酒或者果汁都行。 Jiu hudzhe gudzhi ddu xing. ‘Wine or juice, either one., 你想喝酒或果汁吗? Ni xiang he jiii hud gudzhi ma? ‘You want wine or juice (as opposed to nothing)?’

来一杯白开水,好吗? Lai yi bei baikaishut, hao ma? ‘Bring a glass of boiled water, okay?’


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

22. Question Words as Indefinites In Chinese (and in many other languages in East and Southeast Asia, as well), words like shenme have two aspects: (1) in the context of questions, they serve as question words, and (2) in the context of statements, they serve as indefinites. Shenme? ‘What is it?’

Mei shenme. ‘It’s nothing.’

Qii nar? 'Where are you going?9

Bu qii nar. ‘Nowhere.,

It is also possible to emphasize complete exclusion or inclusion by plac­ ing the indefinite phrase before the verb and adding a supporting adverb such as dou or ye. The difference between the plain form and the exclusive/ inclusive form can be confirmed by the addition of “in particular” in the English translation of the former and “at all” in the translation of the latter. The following examples illustrate this. Nimen xiang mai shenme? ‘What do you want to buy?’ Women bit xiang mai shenme. ‘We don’t want to buy anything [in particular].’

Women shenme dou bu xiang mai. ‘We don’t want to buy anything [at all].,

Nimen dao nar qii? “Where are you going?9 Women bu dao nar qu. ‘We’re not going anywhere [in particular].’

Wdmen nar ye bu qu. ‘We’re not going anywhere [at all].’

Tamen renshi shei? ‘Whom do they know?’ Tamen bu renshi shei. “They don’t know anyone [in particular].’

Tamen shdi ddu bii renshi. ‘They don’t know anyone [at all].’

Other correlations between the question and the indefinites are illustrated in the following examples. Zhongwen shu, ni you j i ben? ‘How many Chinese books do you have?9

Zhdngwen shu, wo mei j i ben. ‘I don’t have many Chinese books.’

Tamen ydu dudshao qian? 4How much’money do they have?’

Tamen meiyou dudshao qian. ‘They don’t have much money.’

Sentences and Sentence Processes

Ta dud gao? ‘How tall is she?’


Ta bu zenme gao. ‘She’s not that tall.’

23. Yes and No As the examples at the beginning of Section 21 show, where an English response is “yes” or “no,” Chinese often has a simple reiteration of the verb, with nothing corresponding directly to “yes” or “no.” Ni qu bu qii? 4Are you going? ,

Wo bu qu. ‘No, I’m not_

This is typical. Chinese repeats the verb or verb phrase, with or without a negative, to confirm or deny. There are, however, cases where Chinese appears to have a counterpart to “yes” or “no.” 那是虚拟的姓名吗? Na shi xunl de xingmmg ma? 4Is that a made-up name?9 是的,是虚拟的。 Shi de, shi xunl de. ‘Yes, it’s made up.’

不是,是真实的。 Bu shi, shi zhenshi de. ‘No, it’s her real one•’

Shi de and bu shi (or simply bu) appear in responses where strong confirmation or denial is appropriate. However, the correspondence with English “yes” and uno,9is deceptive. In the following example, the correspondences are reversed, with Chinese s/?/' corresponding to English “no” and fed s/zz' to English “yes.” 你从没登过长城吧! NT cong mei dengguo Changcheng ba! ‘So you’ve never climbed the Great Wall, right?’ 是。 从没登过。 不是,我登过好几次了! Shi, cong mei dengguo. Bu shi, wo dengguo hao ji ci lei ‘No, I haven’t.’ ‘Yes, I have; I’ve climbed it numerous times.’ Why is this? The answer is that English “yes” and “no” have different flinctions than Chinese Mz' and W Mi. “Yes” and “no” generally substitute for the answer, which is often then reiterated: “Yes, I have” / “No, 1 haven’t.” (‘"No, I have” can occur, but only with strong overriding intonation.) SW and indicate the truth of the presupposition (“is the case” / “is not the case”), so it is quite possible to follow bu shi with a positive statement: 6

忙抽会 不不不

In the spoken language, bu (or bu) is used. ‘not busy’ ‘doesn’t smoke’ ‘not able to; not understand’

In “noun sentences” such as r a gw加 ( 她 冠 军 )‘She’s a champ’ ( ‘She champion,), the addition of any kind of adverbial element, including a nega­ tive, requires the presence of the verb shl\ Ta bu shi guanjun.

The Negative

(没 )

The common verb 少 如 (有 )‘have, exist,’ which also functions as a helping verb, is exceptional in being negated with mei\ meiyou 6not have,5 often reduced to just (没 )• 他们还没洗澡呢。

Tamen hai mei xizao ne. They still not-have bathe n e . ‘They haven’t bathed yet.’

Formal Negatives A number of other words serve as formal negatives, for e x a m p l e , ( ^ ) 4un-,’ W ( 无 ) ‘not have,’ and w凌/ ( 未 ) ‘not yet/ These are often encountered on signs and in formal writing, as well as in compounds, such as jeichang ( 非 常 )‘very, extremely,(literally, ‘not-usual’).

25. Commands and Requests Explicit positive commands are directed toward a second-person audience and therefore generally omit the subject. Negative commands make use of forms such as' bie (Sll) 6don,t, (whose verbal meaning is 'separate5) and bu ( 不 用 )‘don’t, no need’ ( ‘no use’). Colloquial northern speech often

Sentences and Sentence Processes


uses beng for the negative, a blend of the sounds bu and yong; it is written 甭 , itself a blend of the characters 不 and 用 . The following examples illustrate commands. 往前走! Wang qian zdu!

滚开! Gunkail

Toward front walk!


‘Walk forward!’


快点儿!快藏在床底下! Kuai dianr! Kuai cang zai chuang dixial Fast a-bit! Fast hide at bed under! 'Quick! Hide under the bed as fast as you can! ’

甭〜不用客气! 你俩别吵了! Bdng 〜 BU ydng k^qi! N ilia bie chao lei Don’t be-polite! ‘Feel free!’

别走了, 多坐一会儿呗。 Bie zou le, dud zud yihuir bei. You two don’t fight Don’t leave le, more sit LE! awhile bei.2 ‘Don’t fight, you ‘Don’t leave; why not two!, stay awhile?’

A command can be softened by the addition of the SFP ba, which conveys a suggestive tone. 问吧! Wen bal ‘Go ahead and ask!’

明天再说吧! Mingtian zai shud ba! ‘Let’s talk tomorrow! ’

喝一杯吧! He yi bei ba! ‘Have a cup!,

算了吧! Suan le bal ‘Forget about it!’

我帮你拿吧! W5 bang m na bal ‘Let me help you!’

尽管抽吧! Jinguan chou ba! ‘Feel free to smoke!’

Paradoxically, Chinese sometimes retains a subject where English has a subjectless imperative form. This is the case for the common phrases m kan (你 看 )‘look’ or (你 说 ) ‘say it.’ 你 看 , 烟 火 3! Ni kan, yanhuo\ ‘Look, fireworks!’ In the language of signs and other formal settings, more literary words, such as jinzhi 'prohibif and wii 6do not/ are often used. Wu is common in Classical Chinese.

2 bei is an sfp (see Section 26) that indicates that the suggestion makes perfect sense. 3Also, regionally,少加办wc? (with falling-toned written 廢 火 .


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

禁止吸烟。 Jlnzhi xiyan. Forbid smoke.

请勿吸烟。 Qing wu xJyan. Request don’t smoke.

‘Smoking prohibited.’ ‘No smoking.’

请勿随地吐痰。 Qing wu suidi tutan. Request don’t casually expectorate. ‘No spitting.’

The last two examples have the form of requests, initiated by the verb qing ‘invite,’ which occurs in conventional expressions such as 分/ ( 请问) ‘excuse me’ ( ‘may I ask’) ; 如 //加 g ( 请 原 谅 ) ‘please forgive me,;and the polite request to supply information,分/y?g//加 (请 教 ) ‘can you help me’ (‘invite-instruction’).

5 Words

26. Parts of Speech (Word Classes) Until very recently, Chinese-to-Chinese dictionaries did not indicate parts of speech—classes of words like noun, verb, adjective, and so on. Traditionally, the only distinction was between Mfull words" (shici) and "empty words" (xiici), the latter being words like le or ma that have only grammatical functions. In modem dictionaries, the label zhuci, translatable as 4particle, ('help-word9), is often used in place of jcwc/, but otherwise, designations like noun and verb tend to be found mainly in Chinese-to-foreign dictionaries—and not in all of them. There are two reasons for this lack of attention to parts of speech. One is that there are hardly any formal criteria to apply: no singular versus plural to define nouns, for example, or present versus past to define verbs. The other reason is characters: the character, not the word, tends to be viewed as the basic unit of speech. Characters are morphemes (c&心 词 素 ), the building blocks of words, and as such, they cannot be given a part-of-speech label. For example, the bound morpheme M, represented by the character 旅 ,appears in both nouns such as 旅馆 /dgw如 ‘hotel’ and verbs such as 旅行 Mx/wg ‘travel.’ Since it does not function as an independent word, its part of speech cannot be determined. For learners, classifying words into word classes (parts of speech) provides useflil information about how they function. Knowing can be a verb allows the prediction that x/a呢 亦 叹 ( 向 东 旅 行 )‘journey east,’ 扣 (去 旅 行 )‘go on a journey,’ and zd/ Mx/wg z/zJwg (在 旅 行 中 )‘during the journey’ are possible utterances. (In fact, Iwcing can also be a noun, 'journey,9which trig­ gers another set of predictions.) Some modem bilingual dictionaries intended for learners of Chinese do provide information about parts of speech, even if entries continue to be organized by head character. Many of the labels for these parts of speech are comparable with those used in English: nouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, pronouns, and so on. To a large degree, word classes in the two languages overlap, and a learner will not be surprised to find out that cuiniao 'kingfisher, and kuanshi tdesign, are nouns, m 'you5and zhe 'this9are pronouns, nigud4i f and name fcin that case9are conjunctions, and huanying twelcome, and aihu tcherish, are verbs. However, there are also significant differences. 49


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Adjectives Words corresponding to adjectives in English behave like verbs in Chinese (see Section 52). As in English, they can m odify nouns: m•如吣w (傻念 头)‘ crazy ideas.’ U nlike English, they can serve,without the support o f helping verbs, as predicates: ren sha, qian dud (A IS , 钱 多 )‘people silly, money excessive9(in answer to a question about why people spend so much money on brand names). In English, adjectives cannot be used as predicates w ithout a form o f the verb “ to be”:‘ people are silly, money k excessiv,’ or more naturally, 'People are silly, and theyVe got too much money.9 In such contexts, Chinese adjectives have a built-in “ be”:/mdng (黄 )‘be yellow , 备 怪 )‘ bestrange, ’ / " ( 累 )‘be t i r e d , ( 胖 )‘bechubby.’ To underscore the congruency between adjectives and verbs in Chinese, the term “ stative verb” is sometimes used instead o f “ adjective.”

Attributives Some words in Chinese are like adjectives in m odifying nouns, but unlike adjectives in that they usually do not occur as predicates. Examples include ( 国 际 ) ‘ international,w&f l d’ ‘ i nt ernat i onal waters, ’ Gudji Yinbido "International Phonetic Alphabet,' guoji gdngzhi 'm etric system’ )and ( 电 子 )‘ electronic’ 4e-commerce, ’ 7 撇 < 儿> 出门 < 儿 > 跷脚 < 儿 > 罐< 儿〉 面包片< 儿>

jian pie chumen qiaojiao guan mianbaopian

‘tip, point , ‘ left downward stroke’ ( calligraphy) ‘go out,be away from home’ ‘ sit w ith legs crossed’ ‘ju g , container 9 ‘slice o f bread’


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

栅栏 < 儿 > 馅 < 儿 〉饼 老本< 儿> 奸仁< 儿> 胡 同 〈儿 〉

zhdMn ximMng laoben xidrdn hutdng

‘ railings’ ‘ pastry w ith meat fillin g ’ ‘ past reputation’ ‘ shrimp meat’ ‘ lane’ ( in B eijing and nearby regions)

The -r suffix is obligatory in the fo llo w ing words, for which the r-less option is a compound or is suffixed w ith -zi or -tou.

味/味道 伴/伴侣 本/本子 瓶/瓶子 枪/子弹

weir/weidao banr/banlu benr/benzi pingr/pingzi qiangzir/zidan

6 taste’ 'companion 9 ‘ exercise book’ ‘ bottle , ‘b u llet’



1J ?SJ

_ ■^

int uiv


l l e’ l


jto « g CA

, r


In the follow ing pairs, r-suffixed and r-less forms have distinct, but relatable, meanings:

kongr changr huor

spare time ‘ sausage; intestine’ ‘job, w o rk’

i?-less dialects may sim ply produce r-less versions (kong versus kong), or they may preserve the distinction w ith compounding (chang 'intestine 9ver­ sus xiangchang 'sausage9).

The -zi Suffix The fu lly toned version o f the -z/ suffix, z f ( 子 ),also means ‘child.’ As such, it can occur as a second element in compounds: wangzi (3 E T ) 'p rin c e / ( 鱼 子 )‘fish roe,’ zWzf ( 质 子 )‘ proton’ ( ‘ substance-child’). As a suffix w ith neutral tone, it occurs w ith words that are encountered in everyday life around the house or in the local environment. Here are several examples, by category.

Household Items zhuozi 'table 5 chezi 'sm all vehicle diezi 'plate, dish 9 qizi 'bottle opener9 Food d u zi 4tripe? juzi 'tangerine 9

y iz i 6chair 5 gouzi 'ho ok 9 kuaizi 'chopsticks 9

zhuTzi4a w l 9 danzi 'carrying pole 9 beizi 4cup 5

baozi 'steamed bun 5 jiaozi 'dum plings 9 daozi 6rice (plant)9


Parts of the Body bizi ‘nose’ jiaowanzi 'ankle 9

duzi 'stomach 9 naozi 4brain 9

Relatives saozi 'sister-in-law 5 laotouzi6(m y)

qizi 'w ife 9 sunzi 'grandson 9


liuzi 'tu m o r 9

old man’

Other People tubaozi 'country bum pkin 9 yangguizi 'foreign d e vil 9 jengzi 'crazy person, nut case5 Clothing maozi 'hat 5 zhanzi 'fe lt blanket5

kuzi 'trousers 5 xiezi 'shoes9

w azi 4socks9

Animals chongzi tinsect, wenzi 'm osquito 9

haozi 'mouse, rat 9 tuzi 'rab bit 5

houzi 'm onkey 9

Miscellaneous Iduzi 'loophole; fla w 9 gezi 'height; b u ild 5

dizi 'rough draft, copy 9 juzi 'sentence9

The -tou Suffix The -tou suffix is a noun suffix, but it is much less productive than -r and -zi. The noun version, tou, means 'head.9Here are examples o f words that use the suffix.

mutou 'wood, log 5 shitou 'stone 9 matou 6w h a rf 5

she tou 'tongue 9 mantou 'steamed bun 5 niantou 'idea 9

gutou 4bone 5 zhentou 'p illo w 9 Ungtour 'change 5 (money)

Many position words (see Section 35) have forms w ith -tou, for example, qiantou 'in front ,5hdutou 'behind ,5shangtou 6o n / and litou 'inside .9The -tou suffix also combines w ith action verbs in a construction w ith jo w 'have 9 to form nouns that im p ly worthiness; here are some examples.

Action Verb pan 'hope, long for 9 看 A:加 ‘read’ ^

ben 'head fo r 9

Example Sentence You pantou. You kantou. Mei shenme bentour.

English Translation ‘There’s hope.’ ‘ I t ’s worth reading.’ ‘There’s nothing to strive for .9


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

30. Pronouns and Demonstratives Personal and demonstrative pronouns in Chinese are described in this section.

Personal Pronouns Personal pronouns in Chinese are relatively simple and regular. They are presented in the follow ing chart.

Singular f V ix wo -| »

你 nf, 您 nin

他 ,她 ,它 沿

I/me you, you (polite) he/him, she/her, it

Plural 我 们 women 咱 们 zanmen 你 们 mmen 他 们 ,她 们

we/us we (you and I) you (all) they/them

In colloquial speech, ta tends to refer to people. When it refers to things, however, it is more common in object position; in other words, it is more lik e ly to occur in the Chinese equivalent o f a sentence meaning “ put it away” than in “ i t ’s in the drawer.” Spoken ta makes no distinction between male and female or between person and nonperson. In the twentieth century, the practice o f using special characters, and "6 (both ta), for female and nonpersonal referents became customary in w ritin g but had no effect on the spoken language. The suffix -men, usually w ithout tone, is most often found in pronouns. However, it can also combine w ith nouns that designate people, where it functions as a collective: laoshi 'teacher,9 laoshimen 'teachers.5 It does not co-occur w ith numbered expressions, so it cannot be regarded as a plural marker: sdn ge IdoshJi^men) 'three teachers.9 Mandarin speakers from Beijing and from northern regions in general, make the distinction between women cwe/us9that includes the addressee(s) ( 6all o f us9), and zan or zanmen (pronounced zamen, as i f without the first ri) 4we/us, ’ but excluding the addressee(s) ( ‘just us’). The follow ing example is typical:

Zanmen zou ba! ‘W e’re o ff.’ ( the two o f us, but not you)

Demonstrative Pronouns Demonstrative pronouns, or simply demonstratives, are words that indicate relative proximity. The citation forms a r e ( 这 )6仕iis’ and 爪i ( 那 )‘that.’ Usage varies, but before measure words, they may also be pronounced zhei and nei\ zhege 〜 ( 这 个 ) , 〜 以 /坪 (那 个 )• The location pronouns (‘here’ and ‘there’) are 故i r ( i i 儿 / 那 儿 )and ( 这 里 / 那 里 ) , with the suffixes -r and The first o f the alternative forms is colloquial in northern Mandarin, the second, disyllabic forms are more formal or written. The disyllabic forms are also used in



southern Mandarin, where the -r suffix is not an option. Corresponding question words are 故?〜沾 ‘which’ and 故5 〜M // ‘where.’


Question na 'w h ich 5 咖 〜 咖 /ge 4this one, 以 〜《啦 〆that one’ nd 〜 nii ge Near zhe 'th is 9

zh知 〜 zhili ‘here’ zheme 'this way 9

Far na cth a f

ndr 〜 ndli 6there’ name 'that way 5

'which one9 ‘where, zenme 4which way 5

Chinese and English may differ in the interpretation o f proxim ity. Zhe, fo r example, may correspond to 'tha t 5in English, and na frequently corre­ sponds to 'the .9


Ni zhe yldianr dou bu zhidao ma? You this little all not know Q? ‘ You didn’t even know that?’


Shijie shang zui teng wo de na ge ren qu le. W orld on most care-for me d e that M person go l e . ‘The person who cared fo r me most in all the w orld has departed.’

31. Zero-Pronominalization N o t only are verbs obligatory in most types o f Chinese sentences, but they tend to persist as predicatives where English w ould use “ do” or some other verb substitute. Subjects and objects, on the other hand, can be om itted rather than be sim ply referenced by pronouns, as they w ould be in English. Compare the English response w ith the Chinese in the fo l­ low ing examples.



Nichou bu chouyan?


You draw not draw-smoke? ‘ Do you smoke?’

Draw. ‘ Yes, I d o .,



Yao kan ma?


Want look m a ? ‘ Do you want to read it? ’

Want. ‘ Yes,I do.’

你喝 什 么?


Ni he shenme?

He cha.

‘ W hat’ ll you have?’

‘ Tea.,


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Where English substitutes “ do” fo r the verb phrase (or,in the last case, omits the verb phrase altogether), Chinese retains the verb (chdu, yao, and so on) or, more generally, the verb phrase {he cha). Conversely, where English uses pronouns to mark the participants in the response, Chinese often leaves them out, a feature that is sometimes called 4 tzeropronom inalization.” Thus, in Chinese, pronouns are often not expressed when the context makes the reference clear; verbs, on the other hand, tend to be reiterated.

32. Where Are the Articles (“a” and “the”}? You w ill have noticed that Chinese makes m inim al use o f words corresponding to English “ a,” “ the,” “ some,” and “ any” 一 the articles. In some cases, Chinese uses a corresponding word, such as 〆 for ‘a’ or 〜mi ge for ‘the.’ But in most cases, the function o f the articles is assumed by word order. Definiteness (“ the” )is associated w ith the subject position before the verb; indefiniteness is associated w ith the position after the verb. Following is the classic example.

Laile y i ge keren. ‘A guest’s arrived.’ ( cYou have a guest.’ )

Keren lai le. ‘The guest’s arrived.’ I f the guest is unexpected ( 6a guest’ ) ,‘ guest’ fo llo w s the verb. I f the guest is expected ( ‘ the guest’) ,‘ guest’ is at the head o f the sentence— the topic. Another typical case involves a question about an unknown place ( ‘a’) and a response w ith a known place ( ‘the’).

Zherydu meiyou cesuo?

Cesud zai lou shang.

4Is there a toilet around here?5

‘The to ile t’s upstairs.’

Here’s one more example.

下雨了。 Xiayii le. Falls rain le . ‘ I t ’s raining.’

雨下得很 大 。 Yu xia de hen da. ‘ The rain’s rfeally heavy.’



33. Modification and the Particle c/e ( 的 ) Unlike English, where some modifiers precede the noun (for example, “ Chinese-speaking people” )and others follow the noun (for example, “ people who speak Chinese” ),in Chinese, a modifier consistently precedes the noun it modifies. In the follow ing examples, the m odifying phrase is enclosed in curly brackets. {wo} gege

{Zhongguo} jengsu-xiguan {xiao} liwu {chuantong} sixiang {hen dud) qian

‘ {m y} older brother’ ‘ {Chinese} customs’ ‘ {sm all} gifts’ ‘ {traditional} thinking’ 4{a lot o f} money 9

{feichang da de) bianhua ‘ {really big} changes’

{tamen shuo de} hua ‘the things {that they said}’

{Zhongguo chuantdng sixiang de) yingxiang {Chinese traditional thinking d e } influence ‘the influence { o f traditional Chinese th in k in g }’

{ji bei ren zhu zai yiqi de} dajiating {several generations people live at together d e } big-fam ily 4a large fam ily {in which several generations o f people live together }9

中 国 政 府 在 七 十 年 代 实 行 的 计 划 生 育 政 策 ... {Zhongguo zhengfu zai qishi niandai shixing de} jihua-shengyu zhengce {China government a t 970s era promote de } fam ily-planning policy 'fa m ily planning policies {put into practice by the Chinese government in th e ’ 70s }, These examples are divided into two sets. O nly the second set requires that the function o f the m odifying phrase be made explicit w ith the particle de (M ). For the first set, de is not usually present. The general rule is that the explicit particle o f modification is not required w ith the follow ing. • Pronouns before kinship terms (for example, w5 gege) or other close relationships • Country, place, or language names (for example, Zhongguo Jengsu-xiguari) • Unmodified adjectives (for example, xiao liwu and chuantong sixiang) By contrast, an adjective further modified by an adverb (for example,

feichang da de bianhua) requires de, w ith the exception o f dud 4be many/ much 9and shao 6be few ,9which do not require de despite the fact that they are always modified (for example, hen dud qian).


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

De for All Seasons Word-frequency dictionaries show 也 (的)to be the most frequent o f all Chinese words, even more frequent than l e ( J ) and shi ( ^ ) , which fo llo w at some distance in second and third places, respectively. W ithout reference to the written language, de would be even more ubiquitous, since particles that are pronounced differently in some central and southern regional languages are all pronounced de in Mandarin. U n til the middle o f the twentieth century, these ftmctions were all written w ith the single character 的,just as verble and sentence-/^ (pronounced differently in Cantonese and other regional languages) are written T in Mandarin. Nowadays, however, three des are distinguished in the w riting syste m : 的,得 ,and 地 . The first represents the particle discussed in this section. The other two are discussed in Sections 56, 57, and 63, and all three are summarized in Section 60. M o d ifyin g de serves as a marker o f possession (tade 'his/hers9) and o f m odification 如 r (一 流 的 餐 馆儿)‘ top-notch restaurant’). When the follow ing noun or noun phrase is omitted, de also serves as a nominalizer (shi he de for drinking 9 一 literally, ‘ is drinking one’ ) . Here are a number o f typical examples.

Nei ge shi tade?

Hei de shi tade.

‘ W hich one’s hers?

‘The black one’s hers.’

Ta shi cong Rlben lai de. She is from Japan come de . ‘ She’s from Japan.’ ( ‘ She’s one who comes from Japan.’ )

哪些是水洗的,哪些是干洗的? Nei xie shi shmxi de, nei xie shi ganxi de? W hich ones be water-wash ones, which ones be dry-clean ones? 'W hich ones need washing, and which ones need dry cleaning ?9

他旁边儿的那个人是谁? Ta pdngbianr de na ge ren shi shei? His side de that M person be who? 4W ho’s that next to him ?’

戴太阳镜的那位是奥巴马吗? Dai taiyangjing de nei wei shi Aobama ma? Wear sun-glasses de that M be Obama ma ? ‘ Is the person wearing sunglasses Obama?’ Note that where context permits, nouns may be omitted after measure words and after 也 . Both cases may elicit a translation with the English pronoun “ one”: ge 'which one, . .. hei de 'the black one.9It is important to bear in mind, therefore, that measure words appear only after numbers and demonstratives, while 也 ( 的) as a signal o f modification appears only after adjectives, verbs, and nouns.



Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the follow ing phrases and sentences.

1. the large one 2. that one 3. this small one 4. I only have two. 5. She didn’t like those two red ones.

Possible Answers 1. da de 2. nei ge 3. zhei ge xiao de 4. Wo zhiyou liang ge. 5. Tabu xihuan nei Hang ge hong de.

34. The (是 ■的 ) Construction and Situational 办 (的 ) The nom inalizing function is at the root o f the so-called shi-de construc­ tion, w hich draws attention away from the verb and to the adverbial— when, where, how— much like the English pseudocleft construction: “ It was several years ago that we met” ( w ith international prominence on “ several years ago” ). The tfe component o f the construction is obligatory, but the in itia l shi, usually w ith neutral tone, is optional. When present, it introduces the circumstances: zuotian mai de 'bought yesterday ,5 gen tamenyiqiqu de 'w ent w ith them .9The event in question is usu­ ally a past event. The shi-de construction is one o f several cases in which no head noun can be placed after de ( 6^). Here are some prototypical examples.

我们是几年前认识的。 Women shi ji nian qian renshi de. We are several years before meet de . 'We met several years ago.9

他是一个人去的。 Ta shi y i ge ren qu de. “He went on his ow n.’

他是得癌症死的。 Ta shi de aizheng si de. He be get cancer die de . ‘He died o f Cancer.’


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

The shi-de construction typically underscores particular circumstances o f an event that has been established earlier in the discourse or that can be taken for granted.

Ni shi zai nar sheng de, zai nar zhangda de? Where were you bom, and where did you grow up? In this example, being bom or growing up somewhere are not in question. Rather, it is the places that are in question. Northern Mandarin speakers can, w ith no change in meaning, slip the otherwise final de inside the object.

他们是咋天买票的= 买的票。 Tamen shi zudtian mdi pido de 〜 mdi de pi&o. ‘ They bought the tickets yesterday.’ ( ‘ It was yesterday that they bought the tickets .’ ) A t one time— at least fo r some speakers一 de could only intrude before nouns, not pronouns, but nowadays, that restriction no longer seems to hold. In the follow ing example, both options are possible even w ith a pronominal object, as shown.

我是在香港认识她的。 Wd shi ziii Xidng Gdng renshi td de 〜 renshi de td. ‘ I met her in Hong Kong.’

Situational de D e(^\) also appears in certain emphatic constructions, notably in the common confirmation sA/' ( 是 的 )‘that’s right’ and in insistent statements. As with the shi-de construction, no noun can be provided to follow de in this context. Examples follow.

挺好的! Ting hao de! ‘ That’s great!’

明天会很热的。 Mingtian hui hen re de. ‘ Tomorrow w ill be h o t/

Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the follow ing sentences. 1. I graduated in 1992. {blye (vo.) "graduate9) 2. It9s going to rain on Wednesday, (xiayu 'ra in 9) 3. You walked here?— Yes, I did. (zdulu (vo.) "w alk9)



4. I went to university in Sydney. (Xini) 5. They are coming to see me on Sunday, (lai kan wo)

Possible Answers 1. Wo shi 1992 nian biye de. 2. XingqTsan hui xiayu de. 3. N i shi zdulu lai de ma? Shi de. 4. JVd shl ziii XTrd shiing de d&xue 〜 shimg diixue de. 5. Tamen xmgqTri lai kan wd. (not past)

35. Place Words A number o f constructions make reference to location or destination.

Zher fujin ydu meiyou chaoshi? 6Is there a supermarket around here?9

JJngkeldng zai Wenxueguan Lu. 4Jinkelong [Supermarket] is on Wenxueguan Road.’

Zou dao nar yao ji fen zhdng? ‘H ow many minutes w ill it take to w alk there?’

ZherJujin, Wenxueguan Lit, and nar are all places. The first is the subject o f an existential sentence (with^ow), the second is an object o f zai, and the third is an object o f dao. Other constructions requiring place words could be cited, as well. Place words are not just nouns that make reference to places. Cheng 'c ity 9is a place, but zherfujin could not be replaced by cheng tcity, in the first example, nor could nar be replaced by fangzi 'house 9in the last. The follow ing types o f nouns can constitute place words and serve as locations and destinations.

Geographic Names Geographic names o f all types can serve as locations and destinations.

Guangzhou Xlnjiapo Jianqiao chidao

‘ Canton’ ‘ Singapore’ ‘ Cambridge’ ‘ equator9

Position Words Position words are independent words that indicate position relative to some other entity. They may be pronouns: zher ~ zheli, nar ~ nali, and nar ~ nali. They may be nouns that express relative position: waitou 'outside ,9qiantou


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

cin fronts xiatou 'below .9M ost o f these have alternatives w ith bian 'side 5 and mian 'side, face/ fo r example, waibian and waimian. They include words for and 'rig h t9: zudbian 'left,'ydubian 'rig h t .5 They also include compass directions: ddngbian 'east/ nanbian 'so u th / ddngbei tnortheast y u e y ih d u 'three months later/ s i tia n y iq ia n 'fo u r days before.9

Independent Time Words There are also relative time words independent o f units o f time. Although some o f these words correspond to adverbs in English (fo r example, ym/a/ 'recently9), in Chinese, they all function as a subclass o f nouns. 在前来才 现目近刚

Current x ia n za i m uqian jin la i gangcai

4now, nowadays ‘ at present’ ( ‘ in front o f the eyes’) ‘ recently, lately’ ‘just now ’

Before 以前 从前

y iq ia n con gqian b en la i

‘ before’ ‘ form erly. ‘o rig in a lly’

丨后来来 以后将






‘ after, 4afterward5 ‘ in the future’

刚才那个电话是谁打来的? G a n g ca i n ei g e dian h u a sh i sh e i d a la i d e?

Just-now that M phone-call be who make-come DE? 'W ho was that who phoned just now?9

后来他们发现他是完全无辜的。 H d u la i tam en Jaxian ta sh i w an qu an w iigu de.

Afterwards they discover he be completely not-guilty de . ‘Afterwards, they discovered that he was completely innocent•’



Clock Time Clock time is measured in ( 点)4hours, ’ y?w ( 分)‘minutes, ’ and ( 秒)‘ seconds, ’ optionally follow ed by ( 钟)‘ clo c k , ,as shown in the follow in g chart.

Time l:00 1:05

Chinese 一 点


< 钟 >2




- A f 一 ^ 四 差



y l dian < zh d n g > y i dian g u d w u Jen < zh dn g> y i dian lin g wii y i dian sh iw u Jen < zh dn g> y i dian < g u d > y i ke y i dian sa n sh i je n < zh dn g> y i dian ban y i dian sish iw u j e n < zh d n g > c h a y i ke lia n g d ia n < zh d n g > ch a sh i je n lia n g dian

The g u d pattern, w hich corresponds to English "five minutes past/ 9in d i­ cates minutes after the hour up to but not including h a lf past the hour. The //wg pattern, which corresponds to English “ one oh five,” indicates minutes after the hour up to “ one oh nine” and is never followed by A fte r h a lf past the hour, minutes can be given after the hour or before the hour. The latter option uses ch a 'lack, less/ w ith the minutes phrase usually placed before the hour: ch a wii fen Hang dian 'five minutes to tw o .5 ‘ Quarter past’ and ‘ quarter to ’ are expressed w ith M ‘notch’ ( derived from the float stick o f a water clock). San ke "three quarters past5 9is a rare alterna­ tive fo r c h a y i k e 'quarter to .5

Calendar Units Days o f the week and months are labeled by number. The standard term for week is xin gqi. L ib a i, originally 'worship week ,5is also used informally. A formal (and nowadays, quite often spoken) alternative to xingqT is zh o u 4 a cycle ., The week begins on Monday. Spoken on Sunday, xrwgqzii ( 下 星 期 四)is four days hence,that is, ‘this Thursday.’ The only unnumbered day is Sunday, which has two forms, one w ith ri 'sun 9and one w ith tian 's k y /

Monday xTngqTyT libaiyi zhouyT

Tuesday xingqi'er libai yer zhou 'er

Saturday xingqiliii libailiu zhouliii

Sunday xlhgqiyi 〜 xTngqTtidn Hbiiiri 〜 Hbiiitian zhduri

2Final zhong is optional, but it is more likely on the hour {san dian zhong) than when minutes are expressed.

72 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Months are also numbered: yTyue, eryu e, sa n yu e ... sh V eryu e. (Note that measured months are durations: y i g e y u e 'one month,9 Hang g e y u e 6two months .’ ) Contemporary years are mostly designated by digit rather than whole num­ ber, followed by the measure nian 'year9: y i-jiu -y i-y i nian 'the year 1911/ er-lmg-yT-sl nian 'the year 2014.9The year 2000 can be er-lm g-lm g-U ng nian or liang qian nian. Years in the distant past are often read as numbers rather than digit by digit: b abai sanshiyJ nian (not b a-san -yT ) 6the year 831/

Republican Dates For official or formal purposes (for example, on newspaper banners), Taiwan still makes use o f an alternative dating system that began w ith the Republic. 1912 is year 1, 1913 is year 2, 2014 is year 103. The Chinese have also dated the calendar from the birth date o f the Yellow Emperor (H u an gdi), a date that has been fixed at 2698 BCE, so 2014 o f the Gregorian calendar is— after the lunar new year~~year 4712.

Seasons Seasons (siji 'fo u r seasons5) are chuntian 'spring,9 x ia tia n (M ^ ) ‘ summer,’ 《极 " 加 (秋 天 )‘ autumn,’ and 如 (冬 天 )‘winter, ’ usually in that order. Dates, like addresses, are listed from the largest unit to the smallest: year, month, day: 1959, b ayu e, 23 h ao (1959/8/23). (The day o f the month is usually written as 23 日 = rz'.)

Holidays Holiday New Year Chinese New Year (Spring Festival) Tomb-Sweeping Day Labor Day

Pinyin (Characters) Yuandan (7C-S.) Chiinjid

( 舂

Q m g m m g jie



January 1 1st day o f 1st lunar month (late January or in February) A p ril 4 or 5

Solar new year Lunar new year

(清 明 节 ) L a o d d n g jie

M ay 1

(劳 动 节 ) Dragon Boat Festival

D u a n w u jie

M id-A utum n Festival

Z h dn gqiu jie

(端 午 节 )

(中 秋节 )

5th day o f 5th lunar month (June) 15th day o f 8th lunar month (September or October)

Near spring equinox International labor day Near summer solstice Near autumnal equinox


Holiday National Day

Pinyin (Characters) Gudqingjie




October 1

Founding o f the People’s Republic o f China

( 国庆节 )

Lunar Months The lunar year— actually a lunisolar year— has special terms for the first and last months and fo r the first ten days o f each lunar month: (正月) ‘first lunar m onth, ’ / 办 ( 腊月)‘ last lunar month,’ ( 初一)‘beginningon e / chu'er ... chushi 'second . . . tenth days 9(o f a lunar month).

Historical Units of Time Decades are named w ith niandai 'period, generation9: 80 niandai ‘the ’ 80s.’ Centuries are ( 世纪 ) : 5^)7 ‘ 18th century.’ BC, or BCE, is g 加 如 ( 公兀前) :g 加 gyw加 《/•如 m•如 ‘ 55 BCE.’ A D , or CE, is gdngyuan (^ 7 C ), literally tofficial-beginning, : gongyuan sibai bashiwu nian '485 CE .9 'D ynasty 9is chaodai f^ ; ), w ith particular dynasties based on just the first syllable: Zhouchao, QTngchao. (The sequence o f Chinese dynasties can be found as an index in most Chinese dictionaries, as w ell as online.)

Time Clauses Time clauses are formed w ith conjunctions that appear at the foot o f the clause: fife •sA/Aow ( 的时候)‘ when , , during , ’ ( 以前)‘before ,’少沩加 (以后)‘ afterwards.’ The time clause its e lf appears before the main clause.

Shangke de shihou bit ylnggai shud Yingwen. Attend-class de time not ought speak English. ‘ You shouldn’t speak English when you’re in class.’

Shuijiao yiqian bit ylnggai he kqfei. ‘ You shouldn’t drink coffee before bed•’

ChJfan yihou bu ylnggai yduyong. ‘ You shouldn’t swim after dinner.’

De shihou (literally, 'time o f ) phrases have the form o f a noun modified by a clause, for example, “ at the time when (class is in session).” In more formal speech and in writing, de shihou is often reduced to just shi ( ) . Long or complex when-clauses can also be headed by 必 叹 ( 当)‘at a given time’ orz3/ ( 在)‘at.’

ta huilai de shihou women hai zai xizao. ‘ When he got back, we were still bathing.’

74 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Like the English expressions “ before” and “ after,” which were originally spatial tQrms,yiqian andyihou are related to qian 4in fro n f and hdu 'behind .5 (In earlier Chinese, 〆 (以)could be a verb meaning ‘take.’ ) •如 ( 之前 ) and zAr/zdw ( 之 后 )are more formal, or w ritten ,alternatives.

37. Measure Words As noted in Section 26, nouns cannot be counted directly in Chinese. Those that are not measured out w ith containers, such as bei (I f) 6 cup o f ,5or units o f measure, such as sheng (?F) 'lite r / are counted w ith classifiers (a sub­ group o f measure words) that are selected, in part, by the semantic features o f their noun referents. Thus vehicles are counted w ith ( 辆) : 〆 // 如 g zixmgche 4a bicycle .9Postal letters are counted w ith feng (M ), derived from the verb meaning 'seal9: Jengxln 4a letter/ The semantic principles o f clas­ sifier selection are not consistent enough, however, to have predictive value, so ultimately, the classifier assigned to a particular noun has to be learned. Dictionaries should provide this information, but most do not.

The General Classifier The classifier gS ( 个 )serves as the classifier for a wide range o f nouns, including people (for example, san gexuesheng 'three students,) and abstract things (fo r example, liang ge dongxi 6two things,9^ / ge went! ca problem ,9 and si ge xingqT 'fo u r weeks5). It also serves as a default measure in those cases where the assigned measure is unknown or there are reasons that make it unnecessary, as when pointing.

“Type” or “Kind” ( 种)and, less commonly, 尽( 样 )and / 以 ( 类)function as group measures w ith the meaning o f ‘ kind, type, class.’

Wdmenydu liang zhdng; myao nei zhong? ‘ We have two kinds; which do you want?’ Group measures such eyeing ( # ) and lei (? |) permit— and are possibly more common w ith 一 a fo llo w in g de\ zhei yang de xigua 'this type o f water­ melon ,9zhei lei de dongxi 'things in this category.5Classifiers, illustrated earlier, do not permit de before the classified noun. A selection o f the more common classifiers is listed in the follow ing chart. Some o f the items, such as ( 班)and cAw如 ( 串),fa ll outside the strict definition o f classifiers and may be more properly considered other types o f measures. For,the learner, fine distinctions are less important, so the various subtypes are mixed together in the chart.





Used with



‘ handle’

item w ith a handle

b a chu y i b a d a o la i

regularly scheduled transport

zu i hdu y i ban ch e 6 the

bound item

Z h on gw en shu m y d u j i ben ? 4 How many

b in

‘volum e’

'p u ll out a kn ife 9 last bus’

Chinese books do you have?9

nP bu.

w ork o f art

N e i bii d ia n yin g w o kanguo lia n g c l

T v e seen that film tw ice .5 ch dn g

‘ site , clearing’

presentation o f a Z uihdu y i ch a n g film , play, or d ia n y in g 'The last sports event picture show’ ( a film title)

$ chuan

‘ string together’

keys, beads, and so on

y i chuan p u ta o

4a bunch o f grapes,9 y i chuan y a o s h i

‘ a bunch o f keys’

‘ route’

item in a s h e n g le y i d a o shduxu sequence (fo r ‘ save a step in a example, a step p ro c e s s /^ / d a o c a i or food course) 4a course 9(meal)

‘top ,

item w ith a point d a izh e y i d in g q ig u a i or top (for d e m a o zi 'wearing example, a hat) a peculiar hat’ building

、 ddng

Ta zh u z a i d l-e r d o n g loufang. 'She lives

in building No. 2.’ 对

du i


y i du i xinhun fu fu


zh i c h i lia n g dim

‘newlywed couple’ ‘ session’

'on ly have two meals’ 兔

du d


j i d u d m e ig u i 4 a few



Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Classifier 份 如


Used with


one o f a set, pile sdngyifen liwu 'give a present,9 Jen


Niuyue Shibao 4a copy o f the ‘ seal’


New York Times’ liangjengxin 4two

picture, textile

yi fuyouhua 4an oil



painting9 S'J fit

item that comes in pairs; emotion

〆 为 少 抑 啦 ‘a pair o f glasses,» xiaolian 6a smiling face’

个 故

person, thing; the default measure

Yi ge bu gdu, liang ge tai duo, zenme ban? ‘One is not enough; two is too much. What do [I] do?’

股 妙

‘ lim b ,

strandlike item yi g u y an 6a w h iff o f smoke,9 gu meiqi (for example, ‘a musty smell’ a trail, smoke, or smell)

家 , 'one time, one occasion5 to the verb (see Section 71). The options, then, are as follows. D en g d en g ! D e n g y i den g! D e n g y i x ia r l

‘Just a m inute!’ ‘ Wait a sec!’

Verbs in General X iu xi xiuxi ba. X iiixi y i x ia r ba!

‘ Take a break.’

Wo g e i m jie s h a o jie s h a o . Wo g e i m jie s h a o y i xiar.

‘ Let me introduce you.’


Note that verb-plus-object combinations (see Section 66) pattern w ith monosyllabic verbs in allow ing all three options. Shuishui j i a o ba. Shut y i sh u ijia o ba. Shui y i x ia r j i a o ba.

‘ Sleep fo r a b it.’

Here are additional common examples. N i ch an gch an g ba. N i ch an g y i ch a n g ba. N i ch an g y i x ia r ba.

‘Have a taste!

N i c a i y i cai. N i w en w en ta ba. N i d e zidian , n en g kankan m a?

‘ Take a guess.’ 4W hy don’t you just ask her?’ ‘ Can I take a look at your dictionary?9 ‘ Feel [th is ]!’

M o y i x iar!

Verbs o f cognition and consideration,such as x/ 如 g ( 想 )‘think,’ ( 考 虑 )‘ think over, consider,’ ( 商 量 )‘ discuss, consult,’ and ( 谈 )‘ talk, chat, discuss,’ are especially prone to reduplication. X ian gen ta tan y i tan.

‘Talk to her first.’ Z anm en sh a n g lia n g sh an glian g.

‘ L e t’s talk about it.’ R a n g w o kaolu y i x iar.

‘ Let me think it over.’ The last example serves as a conventional way o f parrying a request— a way o f saying 'n o .1The same can be said o f another common sentence: Yihou z a i sh u d b a? 4W hy don^ we talk about it later?9

Idiosyncratic Verbs It is worthwhile introducing some o f the most common and versatile verbs o f Chinese individually. The follow ing sections discuss sh l ( ^ ) you ( 有 )‘have, ’ ( 在 )‘ be a t, ’ and gd/ ( 给 )‘ give.’ Verb suffixes do not occur w ith sh i and z a i, they are rare w ith and they occur normally w ith g e i.


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

44. S/i/ (是 ): Identity and Category Shi as a Copula Verb Shi has equative and categorical functions and, as such, is often unstressed,

in the neutral tone.

我是黎明。 Wd sh i L i M ing.

T m L iM in g /

满地都是水。 M an di dou sh i shut.

Full-place all be water. ‘The whole place is covered in water.’

黎明是中文老师。 L i M in g sh i Z h on gw en laoshi.

4L i M in g ’s a Chinese teacher.’

站台不是游乐场。 Z h an tai bu sh i yo u lech a n g .

6The (station) platform isn’t a playground.’ Frequently, one o f the elements in an equative or categorical sentence is a nominalized verb. This is particularly common in sentences involving nationality, major courses o f study, professions, and so on. The nominalized form gives the attribution a more enduring sense. Tam en sh i co n g R iben la i de.

'T he y’ re from Japan.’ ( ‘people who are from •• • ’) Wo sh i g a o y u y a n de.

‘ I deal w ith languages.’ ( ‘ one who deals w ith ...’ ) Wo zu i xih u an h e d e sh i cha.

‘The thing I like best to drink is tea.’ In casual speech, sh i in its copula function is often omitted: 73 di-yT, m d i-er. 4He9s first, you9re second.9The omission o f sh i is particularly common w ith nationality, w ith dates, and in physical descriptions. Ta < s h i> Y m ggudren.

‘ He’s B ritish .’ Jin tian < s h l> xingqTwu.

“Today’s Friday.’ Ta < s h l> g a o biliang.

‘He has a prominent nose.’ (‘ nose-bridge high ’ )

Verbs in General


Ta < sh i> h ei toufa.

'She has black hair.9 The result is a “ noun sentence,” w ith a noun acting as the predicate— the comment. However, any sort o f adverbial m odification, including the negator bu, requires the presence o f sh i or an equivalent: J in tia n bu sh i xingqTwu.

Shi in Location Expressions Existence in a location is e xp licitly expressed w ith y o u (see Section 46): F a n gjian li y o u g e gu lzi. 'T he re ^ a cupboard in the room .5 It is possible, however, to express location w ith sh i, w ith a slightly different sense. For example, in describing a room at a hotel where the fiim ishings are known but not their placement, what is at issue is not what is in the room (yo u ), but how things are arranged (shi).

床对面是柜子,柜子旁边是电视机。 C h u an g d u im ian sh i gu izi, g u lzi p a n g b ia n r sh i dianshlji.

‘Opposite the bed is a cupboard; next to the cupboard is a television.’

Shi in Tag Questions Shi is also a common element in confirmatory questions or tag questions. Z h on gw en sh i bu sh i b ib ie d e y u y a n nan ne?

‘ Is [it the case that] Chinese is harder than other languages?’ Z h on gw en bi b ie d e y u y a n nan, sh i m a?

‘ Chinese is harder than other languages,isn’t it?’ In written language and sometimes in neutral speech, the second part o f a sh i bu sh i question (and in fact, the negative segment o f any verb-not-verb

question) can be indicated withySw ( 否 )‘ or not.’

她问我是否来自中国。 Ta w en w d shlfdu la i z i Zhongguo.

She ask me be-the-case or-not come from China. ‘ She asked me i f I was from China.’

Shi in Emphatic Expressions In certain contrastive, concessive, or otherwise emphatic environments, sh i may appear w ith adjectives.

是很贵,可是很有用。 Shi hen gui, kesh l hen y d u yd n g . (versus neutral hen g u i) It is expensive, [granted,] but it 9s useful.


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

他们的房子看起来很是不起眼儿。 Tamen de fangzi kan qilai hen shi bu qiyanr. Their apartment doesn’t look very attractive. For the shi-de construction, see Section 34. Shi, through close association w ith preceding words, has become a second element in many adverbs and a few conjunctions: zongshi ‘ always , U /> sW ( 还 是 )‘ s till , ’ jdasA / ( 要 是 )‘ i f ’ ( all usually listed in dic­ tionaries w ith neutral tone on 57m');力 ( 就 是 )‘ even, ’ ( 只 是 )‘ only, ’ 紛 W ( 可 是 )and ( 但 是 )‘ but’ ( all w ith fu ll tone). Z /^w /z / ( 貪 是 )一 w ith neutral-toned shi— has become an interjection expressing dissatisfac­ tion: 4Oh, really n o w !9

45. Verbs Like sh i: Classificatory Verbs A number o f verbs, w hile not nearly as common as M i ( 是 ),have many features in common w ith it. These are often called “ classificatory verbs.” Character

Pinyin and Gloss

Exam ple

姓 叫

xing 6be sumamed, jiao cbe called?

Taxing Feng. cHis last name is Feng/ Ta de mingzi jiao shenme? ‘W hat’s his name?’

xiang 'resemble9

Ta kan shangqu xiang Zhongguoren.

shu 'belong to 9

Wd shu long de. T m the year


dengyu "equal9

Yi kuai Meijin dengyu jiku a i Renminbi? 4How much is a dollar

6She looks Chinese.’ o f the dragon.’

in R M B ?,

zud 4act as, be?

Ta zud xizhitren. 'S he^

dang 'serve as, be9

Ta dang banzhang. 4He9s the class

department head.’ m onitor.9 In Nin guixing, the polite but idiomatic expression for inquiring about a surname, xing is used as a noun. As a verb, xing can only take a surname as object. Jiao, on the other hand, requires a name o f at least two syllables as object, which makes both a fu ll name and a two-syllable mingzi eligible: Wd xing Wei, jiao Jiu'an. Jiao can also function transitively, meaning 'ca ll [someone].9Xiang can also be an adjective: Tamen hen xiang. 'They look like each other.9 Rather than asking age directly,Chinese often gauge a person’s age by finding out their birth sign.

Verbs in General


46. YSt;( 有 ): Possession and Existence You may indicate possession. Wd m eiydu Ying-H an zidian .

‘ I don’t have an English-Chinese dictionary.’ N i y o u m eiydu x io n g d l-jiem ei?

‘ Do you have any brothers or sisters?’ However, y o u is more common as an existential verb, introducing noun referents into the discourse. Note that the topic o^ydu in this type o f sentence is usually a location, and because it comes at the head o f the clause, the loca­ tion is not usually marked w ith za i. Z h er y o u m eiydu cesu o ?

You, z a i lou shang.

‘ Is there a toilet here?’

‘ There is; it ’s upstairs.’

F iijin y o u Hang j i a b ijia o h ao d e fanguanr.

‘ There are two relatively good restaurants around here.’ Age, weight, and other measurements often appear in (verbless) noun sentences. Wd sish iw u sui.

T m 4 5 _,

Ta q ish i gon gjin .

‘ He’s 70 kilos.’ However, when a verb is needed to provide a perch for adverbs, the verb is usually ydw. (In this way, Chinese is like French, which uses “ have” for age and weight, rather than like English, which uses “ is .”) Ta z h iy d u ersh isan s u l

‘ She’s only 23.’ Wo m eiydu qT shigongjin, z h iy d u liu sh ig o n g jin .

T m not 70 kilos— just 60.’ Duration complements (see Section 70) can fo llo w cases, y d u can be omitted.

although in such

我在北京 六个月 了 。 Wd z a i B eijin g < y d u > liu g e y u e le.

T v e been in Beijing six months.9 Suffixed verbs are negated w ith m e i< y d u > , either w ith the suffixes retained in the case o f - g u o and -zh e or w ithout the suffix in the case o f le.


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Tamen huilai le.

Tamen mei huilai.

‘ They’ve returned.’

‘They haven’t returned.’

Ta chJguo Beijing kaoya.

Ta mei chlguo Beijing kaoya.

‘H e, s eaten Peking duck.’

‘ He hasn’t [ever] eaten Peking duck.’

Bie dlngzhe wd.

Wo mei dingzhe m.

‘ D on’t stare at me.’

T m not staring at you.’

In colloquial (rather than formal or w ritten) Mandarin, the asymmetry between positive le, -guo, and -zhe on the one hand, and the negatives w ith mei on the other, is resolved by associating you w ith the positive, as w ell. This is particularly true o f verb-not-verb questions and their answers. FORMAL COLLOQUIAL


Tamen huilai le meiydu? Tamen ydu meiyou huilai?

Huilai le. Meiyou . You. Meiydu.

'Have they returned?9



Ni quguo Taiwan meiydu?


Ni you meiyou quguo Taiwan?


Meiydu . Meiydu.

'Have you [ever] been to Taiwan?9 ‘ Yes.,

‘N o .’

W hile there is internal logic in the colloquial forms (you in the positive, mei in the negative), Mandarin probably absorbed this pattern from southern dialects.

47. Z私



In English, identity and location are expressed by a single verb, “ be”:“ I ’ m an astronaut,” “ I ’ m on the far side o f the moon.” In Chinese (and in many other languages), identity and location are expressed w ith different verbs, ( 是 )for identity and d / ( 在 )for location.

我是太空人。 Wo shi taikdngren. I be great-emptiness-person. T m an astronaut.’

我在月亮的另一边儿。 Wd zai yueliang de ling yibianr. I be-at m oon de other one-side. T m on the far side o f the moon.5

Verbs in General


Zdi as a Preposition Z a i also has a range o f other functions. Subordinated to another verb, it func­ tions like a preposition and takes a location object: z a i j i a 4at home,9za/ w u zi

// ‘ in the room .’

她在饭馆儿工作,是个厨师。 Ta z a i fa n g u a n r g dn gzu d, sh i g e chushT.

She at restaurant work, be a chef. ‘ She works at a restaurant; she’s a chef.’

Zdi in Ongoing Action Placed directly before a verb, z a i indicates ongoing action.

我在吃饭呢;等一会儿再打过来,好不好? Wo z a i chifan ne; d e n g y lh u ir z a i d a g u d la i, h ao bu h ao?

I in-the-process-of eat-meal NE;wait awhile again do pass-come, good

not good? T m eating; call back in a little while, okay?’

Zdi as a Postverbal Particle Z a i, often untoned, may also introduce the endpoint o f movement, w ith verbs such as f a n g 'p u t9and x ie 'write.*

自行车放在外头,好不好? Z ixin gch e f a n g z a i w aitou , h ao bu h ao?

T u t your bike outside, okay?9

请把名字写在黑板上。 Q in g b a m in g zi x ie z a i h eiban shang.

‘W rite your name on the blackboard, please.’

48. Gdi■(给 ):“Give” and Its Derivatives G ei ( tu ) is possibly the most versatile o f all Chinese verbs.

Gei as a Verb First o f all, g e i can be a fu ll verb w ith a single object, which can be a person or a thing. I f the object is a person, it is the beneficiary and the thing given is understood. In English, i f the person who benefits is expressed, the thing given usually has to be supplied, as well. For that reason, the English equivalent in the first example below has to be rephrased, without “ give.”


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

TTr^ v w •

n o g e i m.

I give [it] to you. ‘ Here you are.’

与其给折扣不如给减价。 Yuqi g e i zhekdu, buru g e i jia n jia . R ath er-th an g iv e discou n t, b e tte r-to g iv e red u ce-p rice.

'Rather than give a discount, it would be better to sim ply reduce the price.’ G ei may also take two objects, like its English equivalent.

我将在一两天内给你一个答复。 Wo jia n g z a i yT -liang tian n ei g e i m y i g e dafii.

‘ I ’ ll give you a reply in a day or tw o.’

Gei as a Verb in a Series G ei is often the second verb in a series (see Section 73).

拜托您捎个信儿给他。 B a itu d nin sh a o g e x in r g e i ta.

Request you bring M message give him. ‘ Would you mind taking a message and giving it to him?’

Gei as a Postverbal Particle G ei can fo llo w transactional verbs to introduce a beneficiary (see Section 68). Q in g b a zid ia n d i g e i wo.

‘Please pass me the dictionary.’

Gei as a Preposition (7泛/ can appear before a verb in a prepositional function to indicate the beneficiary (often translated as “ fo r” or “ to” ). D u ibu qi, g e i nin tian m afan le.

Sorry, fo r you add trouble le . 4Sorry to impose on you.’ G ei w o liu xiale hen shen d e y in x ia n g .

For me leave-down-LE very deep de impression. ‘ It left a profound impression on me•’ The prepositional function can also extend to agency C4by,9), in which case g e i is synonymous w ith the preposition b ei (see Section 77).

Verbs in General


她新买的雅玛哈摩托车给人偷走了。 Ta xin mai de Yamaha motuoche gei ren touzdu le. She new buy de Yamaha motorbike by someone steal-leave LE. 'H er newly purchased Yamaha motorbike got stolen by someone.9 In such passive contexts, g e i can (like bei) appear without an object, indicating that the event was caused by some agency and, hence, conveying a rather fatalistic or regretful tone.

因为下大雨,我们的旅游都给搞砸了。 Yinwei xia da yu, women de luyou dou gei gaoza le. Because fall big rain, our de travel all got do-fail le. 'Because o f the heavy rain, our trip was a disaster/

你看这空气,都是车多给闹的。 N i kan zhe kongqi, dou shi che duo gei nao de. You look this air, all be vehicles many get mucked-up de . ‘ Look at the air— it ’s totally messed up as a result o f the number o f cars.’

49. Generalized Verbs A number o f Chinese verbs can combine w ith such a broad range o f objects that they have come to function as generic verbs. Examples include da (tT ) ‘strike, h it’ and the various “ do, make” verbs: the homophonous ( 做 )and ( 作X g 如 ( 搞) , ( 弄) , andga« ( 干)•

/M (打) Da is particularly versatile in form ing verb-object compounds like the follow ing.

Chinese 打包





‘ pack (for a trip); unpack9

b a sh en g ca i d a b a o

打的 打点滴

dadi d a d ia n d i


d a dian h u a


d a g u a n si

‘ take a ta xi’ 'have an intravenous drip , ‘ make a telephone call, ‘ sue, debate’

6pack up the leftovers9 d a g e d iq u 6go by taxi9 z a i d a d i a n d i 4be on a d rip’ g e i ta d a g e dianhua

6give her a phone call, d a le j i n i a n g u a n si

‘been argued about fo r years9

100 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Chinese

P in yin



Gloss ‘ hunt.

Jinzhi dalie.

Exam ple


da penti


yizhi da penti



‘ inflate’

gei luntai daqi



‘ fetch w ater’

cong jtng li dashui

4N o hunting.’ ‘keep sneezing’ ‘ inflate a tire ’ 'draw water from a w e ll9


da suanpan

'use an abacus9


da taijiquan

‘ do tai chi’

Nihui da suanpan ma? 'Can you use an abacus? , zaoshang da taijiquan 4do tai chi in the m orning’


da zhekou

‘give a discount’

Neng bu neng da zhekou? 'Can you



taoyan dazhen 'hate



‘ get/give an injection’ ^type9

give me a discount?: injections’

dazi da de hen kuai ‘types fast’

G ao ( ^ ) Gao has a broad range o f meanings covered by English expressions such as ‘happen,’ Meal w ith , ’ ‘ get hold o f,’ ‘ dabble in , ’ 'be into.’

Zenme gao de? ‘ W hat’s going on?’

Ta gao shenme ezudju? 4What m ischief is he up to?9

Ta shi gao diannao de. ‘ She’s into computers.’

Zher gao de hen renao! ‘This place is hum m ing!’

Jintian de gongke wo shi gaobudong de. ‘ I don’t have a clue about today’s assignment•’

Ta zdule hdumen wei wo gaodao piao. ‘He “ went tHrough the back door” to get us tickets.’

Verbs in General


Nong (# ) Nong conveys the sense o f doing something w ith the hands— fixing, obtain­ ing, arranging, or dealing w ith something. More generally, nong is often used in place o f a more specific verb and, as such, tends to combine w ith resultative or directional complements (see Sections 61 and 62): ndnghao 'f ix / ndngcud 4goof, damage9 (w ith cud nongzang 'mess up9 (w ith zang 4d irty,), nong zhengqi 'make tid y 9(w ith zhengqi 6be neat9), ndngluan 'mess up9(w ith luan 4be disordered9), nong bu gudlai 'cannot deal w ith it a ll.9

这书已经绝版,很难弄到手。 Zhe shu yijing jueban, hen nan nong dao shou. This book already out-of-print, quite d iffic u lt get to hands. T h is book is out o f print and quite hard to get hold oV

Neng bu neng nong dianr chi de. ‘ Can you rustle up something to eat?’

Gan (-F) The meaning o f g 加 is 4do a jo b ’ or ‘deal w ith business.’ Like can be used to ask about a “ line o f w ork.”

( 槁),

你干的是哪一行? Ni gan de shi nayi hang?

我是干电脑的。 Wo shi gan diannao de.

‘ W hat’s your line o f business?’

‘ I deal w ith computers.’

The question form g 加 ( 干嘛 ,w ith 嘛 often preferred over the usual 吗 because o f the f lill tone on md) is a colloquial substitute fo r zwd 'doing w hat9or wei shenme 'w h y.9 、

Zanmen jintian ganma ne?

Ni ganma wen?

4What shall we do today?’

‘ W hy do you ask?’

Otherwise, gan is common in set phrases, such as gan geming 4do revolu­ tion,9gan huor 'w ork, do a jo b / and ganshir 'w ork, do things/


The general verb fo r “ do, make” is zwd ( 做 ).

N izai zud shenme? ‘What are you doing ?,

Zudhaole meiydul ‘ Have you finished?’ f t also appears in verb-object combinations, such as zudshi things,’ zwd ( 做生意 )‘ do business,’ and zw桃 w ( 做饭)‘ cook.’


102 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Were it not for the fact that it is represented by two characters, zud might be considered a single word with a range o f senses extending from a core meaning o f 6do, m ake/ Instead, it is more usual to recognize two zuds, one written 做 ,described in the previous paragraph, and one written 作. 作 has narrower functions than 做 . In zwchi必 2 (作 文 ),it means ‘w rite a composition ’ ;in zwdW (作 弊 ) , it means ‘practice fraud ’ ;in zwAiwz' (作 对 ),it means 'take an opposing position.1 also forms noun compounds: zudpin (作 品 )‘works o f literature/art,’ zwdw如 (作 文 )‘ composition,’ 如 叹 zwd (工 作 )‘ w ork, jo b ,’ xz&wd ( 写 作 )‘ w ritin g ,’ ( 作 並 )‘homework,’ zudjia (作 家 )‘ w riter.’ It is also the usual choice in four-character expressions, such as 诉 (作 茧 自 缚 )‘get into a f ix ’ ( literally,‘ spin a cocoon around oneself’ ). In some cases, usage is undecided: zudbanr 4be a partner,9zudke 4be a gUQSt,' zudmeng 'have dreams,9and zuddong 4be the host9(literally 6be east/ the hosting direction) are listed in dictionaries w ith both 做 and 作 .

50. Modal Verbs

A class o f auxiliary verbs (often called z/?心/dwgc/ 助 动 词 ‘ helping verbs’)is recognized fo r Chinese. These are verbs that, like their English counterparts, take verbs or verb phrases as their objects: W5 buyuanyi shiqu ni. T m not w illin g to lose you.9Other features o f auxiliary verbs are that they cannot be modified by verbal suffixes, such as /e ( 了)( see Section 39 ),and that they are usually negated by bu (as in the example), w ith mei lim ited to much rarer cases that carry a certain nuance. In English, auxiliaries can be divided into primary auxiliaries, which play a role in the formation o f verbal categories, and modal auxiliaries, which indicate the speaker’s attitude to an event or situation (hence, the term “ modal” ). In Chinese, the only candidate fo r the status o f a primary auxiliary is mei in its preverbal function: meiyou kandong tdidn,t under­ stand/ mei qiiguo 'haven^ ever been there/ Most dictionaries, however, list in this ftmction as an adverb, like the nonverbal negative 6 " ( 不 ) • Thus, auxiliaries in Chinese are modal auxiliaries, or sim ply modal verbs. A t the core o f the modals are verbs that indicate ability, possibility, likelihood, and necessity, for example, gai in gai zou le 'should be going9and gan in bu gan peng ta 6dare not touch it.9 One particularly prominent subset are the “ can” modals: Awz',and 卿厂

Neng (f^) Neng indicates physical capability, feasibility, or possibility. The two-syllable option, nenggdu{tt ^ ) , is synonymous.

Verbs in General


Bit neng zhe yang zud. ‘ It can’t be done that way.’

Bu neng chi de. ‘N o t edible.’

Xiwangyduyi tian neng baoda nin. ‘ Hope it is possible to repay you some day.’

W5 zai ye bu neng jieshdu le. ‘ I can’t take it anymore.’

在旧政权下妇女不能选 Zai jiu zhengquan xia funu bu neng xuanjii. A t old political-system under women not able select-by-vote. ‘Under the old political system, women couldn’t vote•’

Hui (# ) Hui is used for (1) abilities that result from learning, corresponding to Eng­ lish 'can, be able to, know how to,5 and (2) predictions, corresponding to English 'be likely, be possible, w ill.9

Zhongwen, wd hui jiang yldianr, keshi wd bu hui du. Chinese, I can speak a-bit, but I not able-to read. ‘ I can speak Chinese a bit, but I can’t read [it].’

Zhe jian chenshan bu hui qizhdu. ‘ This shirt w on’t w rin kle .’

Zuihdu yiqie dou hui hao de.


‘ Everything w ill be fine in the end.’

JTntian bu hui hen leng. ‘ It w on’t be too cold today.’

K e y i^ X ) Keyi is used for permission and possibility, corresponding to English 'may, be permitted to; be possible, can.9

Keyi bu keyi mai ban gee ‘ Can one buy a half?’

Mingtian keyi xiuxi. ‘ You can take tomorrow o ff.’

Cong zher keyi kandao dahai. ‘ You can see the sea from here.’


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

O f the three “ can” verbs,only 灸 sentence.

can be postponed to the foot o f the

带孩子上班可以不可以? Dai hdizi shangban keyi bu keyi? 4Can one bring children to w ork?9

Common Modal Auxiliaries The most common modal auxiliaries are presented in the follow ing chart.

Characters 不必

Pinyin bu bi



bu ydng


'need not, no need to 9 4must, have to ,

4no need to 9

Example Bu bi fu fangzu. 4No need to pay rent.9

敢 会


Bu ydng xie. 6M y pleasure.9 W5

dei zou le. 'V vq

‘ dare, deign to ’

got to be going.’ Bu gan dang. 6[I] don’t deserve i t /

'can, be good at9

hen huijiangxiaohua 4good at telling jokes ,


‘ w illin g to ’

bit ken tuoxie 'u n w illin g to compromise’



6can, m ay9

Ni keyi changsuoyuyan. 'You can express yourself freely.9



‘ glad to ,

hen leyi bangzhu ta


‘ can, be able to ’

bu neng bu chengren


‘want to, feel like’

W 5 xiang

‘ glad to help her’ ‘have to admit’



‘need to, have to ,


'want, need to 9

ti ge went!.

T d like to ask a question.’ xuyao xiiili 'needs to be repaired5 W5 yao

shuljiao le.

‘ I ’m trying to sleep., 该


‘ought to, should,

YTnggai mei shenme wenti. 'There shouldn’t be any problems.’

Verbs in General

Characters 愿意



Gloss 'w illin g to 9

Example yuanyi bangmang

‘ a llo w ’

Bit zhun chduyan.


'w illin g to help9 ‘No smoking.’ The category o f modal auxiliaries shades into verbs o f emotional content and intention, which can also take verbs or verb phrases as objects. In a num­ ber o f analyses, some o f these verbs are categorized as modals.

Common Verbs of Emotional Content and Intention Characters 爱

Pinyin ai




“intend, plan’

'love to, be fond o f

Example ai daban 'love to dress up’

dasuan gan zaoban de hudche ‘ intend to catch the early train’


‘ afraid to ’

pa qii kan yayi 4afraid o f going to the dentist’



‘ forget to ’

Bie wangle dai 冲 a ‘D on’t forget to bring your ticket.5



‘ like to ’

xihuan pashan Mike clim bing mountains’

What distinguishes this group o f verbs is that in addition to taking verbal objects, they can also function as transitive verbs.

Wo wangle ta de rningzi. ‘ I ’ve forgotten her name.’

Ta hen xihuan tianshi ‘ She loves desserts.’ In fact, the same is true o f a number o f core modals, as well.

W5 bu hui Riyu. ‘ I ’m not fam iliar w ith Japanese.’


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Wo hen xiang m. ‘ I miss you.’

需要他时,他是会来的! Xuyao ta shi, ta shi hui lai de! ‘ When you need him, he’ ll be there!’

51. Ambient Verbs A number o f meteorological events are expressed by the Chinese verb xia 'fa ll,9w ith a complement that identifies the type o f precipitation. The place­ ment o f the complement follow s the general principle o f Chinese word order: definite (“ the” )before the verb, indefinite (“ a/some” )after the verb. Note that in Chinese, there is no source o f precipitation that corresponds to “ it” in English.

Xiayu le. ‘ I t ’s raining•’

Yu xia de hen da. ‘ I t ’s raining heavily.’

Mingtian hui bu hui xiaxue? ‘W ill it snow tomorTOw?,

Jiujinshan changchang xiawu. ‘ I t ’s often foggy in San Francisco.’

冰雹在屋顶上哗啦哗啦地下着。 BJngbao zai wilding shang huala-huala de xiazhe. H ail at roof on rat-a-tat-tat de fall-ZHE. T h e hail pounded on the ro o f w ith a rat-a-tat-tat.’ Other meteorological events tend to conform to the same pattern, albeit w ith different verbs.

出现了好多次闪电。 Chuxianle hao dud ci shandian. Appear-LE very many times lightning ( ‘flash-electricity’). “There was a lot o f lightning.’

8 Adjectives and Adverbs

52. Adjectives and Verbs As noted in Section 26, adjectives like ( 热 )‘ hot’ and ( 忙 )‘ busy’ can act as predicates w ithout the addition o f a lin kin g verb like “ be.” Unless they are rhythm ically balanced (fo r example, di da wu bo (o f China) 'land large, resources rich ’ ),adjectives as predicates usually require at least a minimum o f modification, even i f if s nothing more than sentence le, the negative bit, or a m inim al adverb like hen.

Ta pang le. (pang 'be plum p9) ‘ He’s gained w eight.’ Jmtian bu re. {re 'be hot9) 4Ifs not hot today.9

Wo hen mang. (mang 4be busy9) T m b u s y .,


Xinli hen bieniu. Heart-in quite exasperated. ‘ [She] feels quite exasperated.’ Nongradable adjectives, such asjia 'false9or a color like huang 'ye llo w ,5 which are notionally all or nothing 一 it’s either yellow or it ’s not— have to be nominalized to act as predicates. In this case, shi acts as the linking verb (as i f it were between two nominals).

他说的都是假的。 Ta shud de dou shi jia de. ‘ Everything he says is untrue.’

她的衬衫是黄的。 Ta de chenshan shi huang de. ‘Her blouse is yellow .’


108 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Adjectives can be conjoined by the conjunction e r (B5) 'and.9

暖和而晴朗的天气 nuanhuo e r q in g la n g d e tia n q i

'warm, clear weather’ ( ‘weather that’s warm and clear ’ ) They can also be conjoined by the addition o f the adverb y o u ( X ) before each adjective.

坐飞机又快又舒服。 Zuo j e i j i y d u k u a iy d u shufu.

‘Taking the plane is fast and comfortable.’

53. Adjectives as Transitive Verbs A number o f adjectives also function idiosyncratically as transitive verbs, w ith a sense o f 'cause to be [adjective].9 Comparable cases in English usually involve at least a slight shift in the form o f the word: “ hot” 〜“ to heat,” “ dear” 〜“ to clarify,” “ tired” 〜“ to tire” ( though “ cool” undergoes no change). In the follow ing example, lia n g 4co 〇r is used as an adjective ( 6be co 〇r ) , w hile re is used as a verb ( 6heat up?).

饭菜都凉了,我给你热一热。 F a n ca i dou lia n g le, w o g e i n i r e y i re.

‘ The food’s cold; I ’ll heat it up for you.’ One cannot predict which adjectives have this property. L ia n g has a counter­ part, lia n g (w ith falling tone) 4co 〇r :b a ch a lia n g y i x ia r 4cool o ff the tea.5 But w hile p ia n y i 4be inexpensive9has a special causative meaning o f 'regard as cheap,9its opposite, g u i 'expensive,9has only an adjectival meaning. The follow ing chart lists additional examples o f adjectives that can func­ tion as transitive verbs.

Transitive Verb Meaning



Adjectival Meaning ‘be lo w ,

'lo w e r9

d lzh e tou zd u lu 'w a lk with

ji n

‘be tig h t ,

‘ tighten.

jin jin x ie d a i 'tighten your


4be tired9

‘ tire,wear out’

B ie b a z iji leizh e! 'D o n ^

m dn g

‘be busy’

N i m d n g x ie sh en m e ne?

p ia n y i

4be cheap9

4be occupied w ith 9 ie t [someone] o ff lig h tly , ( ‘regard as cheap’ )


your head down’ shoelaces9 wear yourself out! ’ ‘What are you up to?’ Z he hu i su an p ia n y ile ni!

'This time you get o ff lig h tly !’

Adjectives and Adverbs



Adjectival Meaning

Transitive Verb Meaning


p in g

‘ be level’

‘ level out’

b a lii p in g y i p in g 'smooth

qin gch u

‘ clear’

6be clear about,

W5 shifen qin gch u n a jia n shi. 6Pm fu lly aware o f


‘ be hot ,

‘heat up.

re d ia n r s h u tx i y ifu 'heat

out the road9

that fact.’

so n g

4be loose9

‘ loosen5

up some water to do the washing’ t a y i so n g sh d u 4once he loosened his g rip 5

A few verbs o f motion, such as la i 'com e5and sh a n g 6go up,9commonly have causative functions; examples are la i 'com e9~ 4cause to come9(that is, ‘bring ’ )and ‘ ascend’ 〜‘ cause to ascend’ ( that is, ‘ serve’ ). L a i g e b a iq ie jl y i g e w uxiang-niurdu.

‘ Bring a poached chicken and a spicy beef [dish].’ C a i q tn g sh a n g m an yidianr.

‘ Please serve the food slow ly.’ More idiomatically, ‘ go’ may also mean ‘ cause to go’ ( that is, ‘remove’) : ta b a y u to u qu le che got rid o f the fish head.9

54. Verb + Adjective Phrase + y id ia n r Adjectives plu s y id ia n r , which gives a comparative reading, also participate in a productive pattern in which they fo llo w action verbs, w ith the sense o f ‘d o _____ so as to be [faster, clo se r]/ W hile the resulting verbal configura­ tion (sh u d-ku ai, zh a n -jln ) recalls the resultative compound pattern discussed in Section 61, the properties o f the combination are distinct enough to merit its own section. Here are some examples.

说快一点儿。 Shud ku ai yidianr.

Speak faster a-little. ‘ Speak a bit faster.’

站近一点儿。 Z han j i n yidianr.

Stand closer a-little. ‘ Stand a little closer.’

110 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

写大一点儿。 Xie da yidianr. W rite bigger a-little. 'W rite it a bit bigger.9

走慢一点儿。 Zou man yidianr. W alk slower a-little. ‘ Walk a b it more slow ly.’

放多一点儿。 Fang dud yidianr. Put more a-little. ‘Put a bit more in .’



Qing ba chuanghu dakai.

Chuanghu kaizhe ne.

‘ Open the window, please.’

‘ The w indow ’s open.’

那, 把它开大一 点儿。 Na, ba ta kai da yidianr. 'Then, open it a b it wider. ’

开 慢 一 点 儿 , 好 不好? 安 全 @ —。 Kai man yidianr, hao bu hao? Anquan di-yi. ‘ D rive a little more slowly, OK? Safety firs t!’

Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the fo llo w ing sentences. 1. Speak a little more slowly, please. 2. W rite it a little bigger, please. 3. Let’s put it up higher.

Possible Answers 1. Shud man yidianr, hao bu hao? 2. Qing xie da yidianr. 3. Fang gao yidianr ba. jDhJAW o ( 多 / 少 )and


( 早 / 晚 )Before the Verb

A small subset o f adjectives can also function as adverbs; they appear before the verb in conjunction w ith an object that follows and expresses an amount. For example, at the end o f a meal, a host may urge you to eat more, using dwJ ( 多 )in its adverbial function, meaning ‘ additionally.’

Mei shenrfie cai; qing ni dud chi yidianrl N ot any dishes; invite you more eat a-little! ‘W e’ve nothing special, but please do have a little more.’

Adjectives and Adverbs


This configuration is particularly common w ith JwJ ( 多 ),but its opposite , ( 少 )‘ few,’ and the pairzdo ( 早 )‘ early’ and w 如 (晚 )‘ late’ also appear in the same pattern, as illustrated in the follow ing examples.

你少给了一块。 Ni shao geileyi kuai. 6You’ re a dollar short.’

我们晚到了一个小时。 Women wan daoleyi ge xiaoshi. ‘ We were an hour late•’

Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the follow ing sentences. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Please bring another set o f chopsticks (kuaizi). (To a waiter.) You should eat fewer desserts, {tiandian 'sweet-snacks9) W rite it a little larger, please. Speak a little more slowly, please. D rin k up!

Possible Answers 1. Qing dud na yi shuang kuaizi. 2. Nizuihao shao chi yidianr tiandian. 3. Qing xie da yidianr. 4. Qing shud man yidianr. 5. Dud he yidianr ba.

55. Vivid Reduplication As noted in Section 43, action verbs reduplicate to convey a casual or unas­ suming tone: Kankan keyima? 'M in d i f I look?9For such verbs, the reduplica­ tion takes the form o f A A or A B A B {xiuxi xiuxi). Adjectives also reduplicate, but for them, reduplication conveys a lively or vivid tone; the form o f the reduplication is A A or A A B B . A n example o f the A A form is found in the admonition to study hard and advance, often written near school entrances in China. Hao 'be w ell/good9is reduplicated to form an adverbial. {Tiantian in the second clause is a differ­ ent form o f reduplication that involves measure words.)

好 好 学 习 ,天 天 向 上 。 Haohao xuexi, tiantian xiang shang. Study hard and make progress every day. A n example o f the A A B B pattern is huanghuangzhangzhang 'flustered, in a rush, helter-skelter,’ based on the adjective /?w而 ( 慌 张 )‘be flustered.’

112 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar The process o f v iv id reduplication is not freely productive; not all simplex adjectives have corresponding reduplicated forms, and not all reduplicated forms have corresponding simplex adjectives. For this reason, reduplicated forms have to be learned as vocabulary items, and in comprehensive diction­ aries, they are listed separately.

Monosyllabic Adjectives A A reduplicated forms are found mostly w ith gradable adjectives— those that permit degrees. For this reason, adjectives like dui 'rig h t9 and cud 'w rong,9 which are either-or notions, are not amenable to v iv id reduplica­ tion. Generally, A A forms have favorable, or at least neutral, connotations, even i f the base form does not: lan 'la z y / but lanlan de tang zai chuang ( 懒 懒 地 躺 在 床 上 )‘ lying supinely on his bed.’ In colloquial rather than formal contexts in northern Mandarin, the repeated syllable in the more common expressions shifts to level tone ( if it is not already level): gaogao 'good and ta ll,9haohao 'properly, as best one can9and manman 'nice and slow9 (from man 'slo w 9). In addition, northern speakers generally add an -r suffix along w ith the tonal shift: gaogaor, haohaor, manmanr.

谁都躲得远远儿的。 Shei dou dud de yuanyuanr de. W ho all hide de far de . 'Everyone hid some distance away/

咱们好好儿的玩儿几天。 Zanmen haohaor de wanr ji tian. cWe thoroughly enjoyed ourselves fo r a few days/

Disyllabic Adjectives N ot all disyllabic adjectives have reduplicated forms. Rongyi 'easy9 does not, fo r example, nor does reqing 'enthusiastic, passionate/ Those that do, have prim ary stress on the final syllable (and secondary on the first), so i f the simplex form has a neutral tone in the second syllable, fu ll tone w ill be restored in the reduplication: ( 清 楚 )‘be clear’ 〜 ‘ crystal clear,’ 灸〜 / ( 客 气 )‘ be polite’ 〜灸从扣如 ' ‘ courteous and cordial.’ The second syllable o f such four-syllable reduplications tends to be the least stressed and, in some cases, is pronounced (and listed in dictionaries) with neutral tone: /mdwgz/z而^ 〜 (as in an earlier exampie), gw办 (规 矩 )‘ be w ell behaved’ 〜

The Function of Reduplicated Forms Reduplicated forms, whether A A or A A B B , may function as adjectives or as adverbials. As adjectives, they may be attributives (modifiers) or predicatives;

Adjectives and Adverbs


in either case,they are usually follow ed by ( 的) • Thus,in the follow ing nursery rhyme about tadpoles, x i ‘delicate , th in ’ and 必 ‘b ig ’ are reduplicated as attributives.

Xiao kedou, shut li you, xixl de weiba, dada de tou. Small tadpole, water in swim, tiny de tail, big de head. ‘ The little tadpole swims in the water; his tail is tiny but his head is huge.’ In the follow ing two examples, cated as predicatives.

'fa r9and gaoda 'ta ll, lo fty 9are redupli­

他生同学的气了,离他们远远的。 Ta sheng tdngxue de qi le, li tamen yuanyuan de. He bear classmates de anger le, from them far d e . 6He was angry at his classmates, so he stayed w ell away from them.9

他像他老爸,高高大大的。 Ta xiang ta laoba, gaogdo-dada de. ‘ H e’s like his dad,tall and impressive.’ As adverbials, reduplicated forms directly precede the verb and are often followed by the adverbial marker 也 ( 地)( see Section 60).

请多多指教。 Qing duddud zhijiao. Invite more advice. ‘ Comments welcome.’ (a polite formula, used when asking for comments on one’s w ork)

她告别了朋友们,高高兴兴地上路了。 Ta gaobiele pengyoumen, gdogaoxingxing de shanglu le. (gaoxing “be happy ’ ) She take-leave-of-LE friends, happily de on-road le. ‘ She said goodbye to her friends and happily set o ff on her way.’

Idiosyncratic Cases As noted above, some A A B B forms have no A B root at all. There is no word *gwf似 i ,fo r example,that corresponds to gwfgw&whwi ( 鬼鬼祟祟)‘ fiirtiv e .’ Moreover, even when a simplex form exists, it is not always an adjective; toutou 'stealthily9derives from the verb tou 'ste a l/ A wQrb yduyu 'hesitate, w aver9is at the base o f the follow ing example.

别犹犹豫豫的了! Bie youyou-yuyu de le! D on’t dawdle!

114 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

The ARAB Pattern There are a few exceptional cases that seem to qualify as vivid adjectives even though they show the A B A B pattern: xw沒 ( 雪 白 雪 白 )‘snowy w hite9 (from xuebai 'snowy w hite9 (xue 'snow 9 + bai 'w h ite 9)). However, cases such as the follow ing, which may appear at first glance to derive from adjectives, turn out not to be cases o f v iv id reduplication o f adjectives.

我宁可在家里轻松轻松。 Wo ningke zai jia li qingsong qingsong. I rather at home in relax. ‘ I ’ d rather take it easy at home.’

Qingsong is one o f a small subset o f adjectives that can have stative and causative meaning, in this case, ‘be relaxed’ as w ell as ‘ cause to be relaxed.9The adjectival sense reduplicates w ith the expected A A B B pattern {qingqmgsdngsdng), w hile the causative reduplicates w ith the A B A B pat­ tern o f action verbs, that is, qingsong qingsong. A number o f other adjec­ tives, such as gaoxing 'happy9and liangkuai 'coo l,9have the same features. Often, an explicit causative verb like rang (see p ivot verbs in Section 78) is also present. 他讲了几个笑话让大家高兴高兴了。 73 jiangle ji ge xiaohua rang dajia gaoxing gaoxing le. He tell-LE several Mjokes make everyone happy le . ‘ He told several jokes to cheer everyone up.’

Partial Reduplications Finally, it should be noted that Chinese also has a rich repertoire o f partial reduplications, such as the A B B pattern, that can also function as adjectives or adverbials.

他慢腾腾,酸溜溜地微笑了一下。 Ta mantengteng, suanliuliu de weixiaoleyi xiar. He slow-tengteng, sour-liuliu de smile-LE an occasion. ‘He broke into a slow,mournful smile.’

他整个夏天都懒洋洋的,这使他的父亲很生气。 Ta zhengge xicitian dou lanyangyang de, zhe shi ta de fuqin hen shengql He whole summer all indolent de , this make his de father quite angry. 4He spent the whole summer lazing around, which really annoyed his father.’

Adjectives and Adverbs


56. Adverbs A t its core, the adverb category consists o f words specialized fo r adverbial positions that involve time, degree, intensification, and manner (uhow,9). In Chinese, adverbs vary in their proxim ity and attachment to the verb. Some appear only directly before the verb, others can appear before the subject as w e ll as after it (and before the verb), and a few can appear without any verbal support at all.

Preverbal Adverbs This group includes all monosyllabic adverbs and quite a few disyllabic ones, as well. The list that follow s includes most o f the adverbs that would appear in an introductory Chinese course.

也 〆 ‘ also’ 都 亦 w ‘all, 更 g 如 g ‘even 还 ‘ s till ,yet’

IS hen 'qu ite9 只 zW ‘ o n ly’

挺 你 g ‘very’ 就 ‘then’


才 ㈤ ‘ only; 刚 扣 % ‘just, a then and only then’

老 Ido ‘ always’

总、是r zdngshi

再 z^f/ ‘ and then, ^

short w hile ago’

‘ actually, contrary to expectations’



马 i l mdshdng

‘ already’

一 块 ^A yikudir = — 几 乎 jT/m

yiqi 'together

‘ always’

‘ almost’

w ith ’

% xian ‘ first o f a ll’

chang ‘ often ,

4right away’

比较 4rather, relatively’

太⑹ ‘ 100% , 又 y6u 4completely? ‘again, in addition’ ‘too, very’


Movable Adverbs Some adverbs can appear before or after the subject. Here are examples,

W\i\\yigdng 'altogether9and guoran 6as expected, sure enough/ 我们班一共有十五个同学。 Women banyigdngyou 15 ge tdngxue. ‘ Our class has 15 students altogether.’

〜一共我们班有+ 五个同学。 〜 Yigdng wdmen Mn ydu 15 ge tdngxue. 〜 ‘Altogether, our class has 15 students.’

我果然没说服他。 Wo gudran mei shuofu ta. I as-expected not persuade him. 4I failed to persuade him, as expected/

~ 果然,我没说服他。

〜 Gudrdn, wd mM shudfii ta. 〜4As expected,I failed to persuade him .5

116 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Other adverbs in this category include the follow ing.

大 概 如 / ‘probably’

恐怕 4be afraid that; probably,

yiding 'fo r sure,



i f 味 Mnldi


‘ as it turns out’


at last’


当 然 ddngrdn

‘o rig in a lly ,

也 许 yexu ‘maybe, perhaps,

‘ anyway ,

6o f course5

Free Adverbs A number o f movable adverbs can appear w ithout any verbal support at all.

Yigdng dudshao? ‘ How many altogether?’

Bid yiding. ‘N ot necessarily.’

Yexu. ‘Possibly, probably•’ You shihou. ‘A t times .,

Other Sources of Adverbials W hile words specialized fo r adverbial positions are o f high frequency, the repertoire o f adverbs is greatly enlarged by words that function both as adjectives and adverbs. Some are monosyllabic: man 'slow /slow ly,5 kuai ‘ fast/quickly, ’ t/wJ ‘ many/more,’ ‘ good/very.’

Kuai zou, bit yao chidao le!

Man zou, man zou.

‘ Come on,we can’t be late!’

‘Take it easy!’

More often, adverbials are formed from adjectival phrases {hen kuai 'very fast’ 〜 也 ‘ q u ickly’ ). These tend to be marked by a follow ing 也 (地 ) • Here are two sentential examples.

怎么样才能很快地减肥? Zenmeyang cai neng hen kuai de jianfei? How then-and-only-then can very quickly de lose-weight? ‘ How can one lose weight quickly?’

他很不舒服地坐在了凳子上。 Ta hen bu shufu de zud zaile dengzi shang. He very not comfortable de sit at-LE stool on. 4He sat on the stool in some discom fort.5

Adjectives and Adverbs


M ore common than phrasal combinations in the adverbial position are disyllabic adjectives, w ith or without the adverbial marker 也 ( 地).

Adjective naixin 'be patient5 ydnggong 'be hard-working1 renzhen 'conscientious9

Example naixm dejieshi 'explain patiently9 ydnggongxuexi 'study hard9 renzhen duidai 'treat seriously9

毫不客气地提出了警告 hdo bu keqi de tichule jinggao (keqi 4be polite9) in-the-least not polite de mention-LE warning ‘issued a warning in the m ost direct terms’ There is a large number o f such disyllabic adjectives; a few are listed below.

特 别 你 ‘ special/specially’


努力 W /i ‘ hard-working; w ith

严 厉 少 士 ‘ strict/strictly’


effort ,hard’

好奇办如分/ ‘curious/curiously’

热烈 rW S ‘ enthusiastic/ enthusiastically’

懒惰 / 如 dwd ‘ lazy/lazily’




Reduplicated Forms Reduplicated forms, o f two syllables (A A ) or four (A A B B ), are particu­ larly common as adverbials. They are often follow ed by the adverbial marker 也 ( 地 ).

懒懒地晒着太阳 lanlan de shaizhe taiyang (lan 4be lazy9) lazily de soak-up-ZHE sun 'relax and soak up the sun9

kaikai-xinxin de gud rlzi (kaixm 'happy5) ‘pass the time happily’

guTgui-juju de zud shengyi (guTju 6well-behaved,) ‘ conduct business properly’ As noted in Section 55, not all reduplicated forms have a corresponding simplex form and not all o f them derive from adjectives. For example, there is no simplex form *//加 that corresponds t o , 知 // 加 也 ( 渐渐地)‘ gradually.9N o r is there a simplex form ^bengtiao that corresponds to the reduplicated adverbial 认k ^ /心?‘ bouncy and vivacious,’ illustrated in the follow ing example.

118 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

他 蹦 蹦 跳 跳 地 来 到 我 面 前 , 笑 咪 咪 地 跟 我 说 : ... Ta bengbeng-tiaotiao de laidao wo mianqian, xiaoniimi de gen wd shud: ... He in-a-bouncy-fashion de come-up me face-before, with-a-smile de w ith me s ay : . . . ‘ He bounced up to me, and said to me w ith a s m ile :… ’ In the follow ing example, ydoyao-huanghuang is based on the verb yaohuang csway, shake,9rather than on an adjective.

他摇摇晃晃地走回家去了。 Ta ydoyao-huanghuang de zou hui jia qu le. ‘ He staggered home.’

Four-Character Expressions Another preferred category o f adverbials is four-syllable (four-character) “ elaborate expressions” ( see Section 27). These adverbials are numerous, and like the Beijing expression in the second example below, often regional or local in usage.

我漫无目的地上了公交。 Wd manwumudi de shangle gongjiao. I hit-or-miss de got-on-LE bus. got on a bus without knowing where it was going.’

如今它也蔫不溜秋儿地消失了。 Rujin ta ye nianbuliuqiiir de xiaoshT le. Nowadays also stealthily de disappear le . 'W ithout much ado, it has disappeared from view.9(o f a type o f food)

Onomatopoeia Numerous onomatopoeic or otherwise sound-symbolic expressions also appear in the adverbial position. These may be reduplicative {dlngdingdangdang) or elaborate (pTlipala).

雨滴丁丁当当地打着窗棂。 YudT dlngding-dangdang de dazhe chuangling. Raindrops ding-dang DE hit-ZHE window-frame. 6Raindrops drummed against the window frame.’

爸爸噼里啪啦地打蚊子的声音很烦人。 Baba pTlipala de da wenzi de shengym hen fanren. Dad slap-splat de hit mosquitoes de noise very annoying. ‘The noise o f dad slapping mosquitoes is very annoying.’

Adjectives and Adverbs


57. Predicate Complements In some cases, English adverbials are expressed as predicates in Chinese.

你汉语说得真好! Ni Hanyu shud de zhen hdo! You Chinese speak de truly good. ‘You speak Chinese really w e ll!’ The order o f words in both languages turns out to be much the same. The Chinese construction is quite different from the English, however; it involves the presence o f the particle de ( H ) between the verb and t f ^ adjectival phrase. The adjectival phrase in the example above, zhen hao, has the form o f an ordinary predicate: “ [ I t ] ’s really good.” For this reason, the construetion is usually called a “ predicate complement.” Another characteristic o f the construction is that because the intermedi­ ary de is placed directly after the verb, any object has to be displaced. The object appears in a position before the verb, as in the example above, or the verb is repeated, first w ith the object, and then w ith de and the adjectival phrase, as in the example below, where jiangke is a verb-plus-object glossed as ‘ explain-lesson.’

他讲课讲得很清楚。 Tajiangke jiang de hen qingchu. He explain-lesson explain de very clear. 4He lectures very w e ll/ The follow ing examples show the versatility o f the predicate-comple­ ment construction.

她长得高高大大的。 Ta zhang de gdogao-dada de. She grow de big and tall de . ‘ She’s grown up so ta ll!’

她住得很近。 Ta zhii de hen jin. She live de quite close. ‘ She lives close by.’

他写汉字写得好不好? Ta xie Hanzl xie de hao bu hao? He w rite characters w rite de good not good? 4Does he w rite characters w ell?’

120 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Predicate Complements Versus Manner Adverbials As noted above, predicate complements generally correspond to English adverbials: shud de zhen hao 'speak really w e ll/ However, Chinese also has adverbial constructions that place adverbs— often in reduplicated form 一 before the verb and that also correspond to adverbs in English: haohao xuexi ‘ study w e ll’ ( see Section 56). How are the two different? The difference is subtle. The predicate complement focuses on result: Shud de zhen hao. Adverbials focus on process: Haohao xuexi. Typically, evaluations take the form o f a predicate complement, while instructions take the form o f an adverbial modifier. evaluation

N i xie de hen hao.


Qi^g haohaor ba m de mingzi xie zai heiban shang.

6You wrote it very nicely.5 'W rite your name carefully on the blackboard, please.9

Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the follow ing sentences. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

You w rite characters well. I like to sing, but I don’t sing w ell 获 ). She cooks very well, {zudfan 'cook,9 haojile 'extremely w e ll9) Look ,he’s running so fast! WeM better get out o f here quickly! (likai 'leave9)

Possible Answers 1. Nixiezi xie de hen hao. 2. Wo hen xihuan changge, keshi chang de bu hao. 3. Ta zudfan zud de haojile. 4. Ni kan, ta pao de hen kuail 5. Women zulhao kuaikuai likai!

58. Comparison In the right context, comparison can be im plied by the plain adjective.

Tamen shei gao?

Ta gao.

‘W hich o f them is taller?’

‘ She’s taller.’

The comparison can be made explicit by using the preposition bi ( t k ) 'th a n / which as a fu ll verb means 'compare.9 The construction is A bi B Adjective .

Ta bi wo "gao. ‘ She’s taller than I . ’

Adjectives and Adverbs


M odification o f a comparative (“ a b it taller,” “ much taller” )follow s the adjective (see Section 59 fo r a more complete listing).

Ta bi wo gao yidianr. ‘She’s a bit taller than I.’ Caishichang bi chaoshl yuan yl li duo lu. 'The fresh food market is a m ile or so farther than the supermarket/

Changing Perspective The bi construction can be negated: Ta bu biwdgao. 6She9s not taller than I.9 It is more common, however, to change the perspective by saying "not as . . . as": A biB Adjective is negated as B mei A Adjective.

我没有她那么高。 Wo mei ta gao. I not-as she so tall.

‘I’m not as tall as she.’ A form al alternative for m2沙 in this context is ( 不如 ) ,which, w ith no adjective mentioned, means 'not as good ?ls . ' Biiru is common in sayings.

百闻不如一见。 Bai wen biiruyijian. One hundred hear not-as-good-as one see. ‘Nothing beats seeing it for yourself.’ Specific adjectives can be added, aligning the buru construction w ith the

meiydu construction. Beijing biini Sh&nghdi d£i.〜 Beiflng meiydu Shimgh&i dii. ‘ B e ijin g ’s not as big as Shanghai.’

Equality The meiydu construction just illustrated expresses lack o f equality (46not as99). A positive version, w ith^ow , indicates equality attained in regard to an adjectival quality.

Jiejieyou m name cdngmmg ma?

You, qishi ta bi wo cdngmmg.

Your sister have you so smart ma ? 4Is your older sister as smart as you?9

Yes; actually she than I smart. ‘ She is. Actually, she’s smarter

than I.5 Equality may also be expressed w ith the adjective 少 批 呢 ( 一样)‘ same,’ often in conjunction w ith the verb xmng ( 像)‘ be like, resemble’ or w ith the conjunction ( 跟)‘ and, w ith ’ or 以 ( 和)‘ and ’ : A 呢 〜 〜 / ^ B (Mi) yiyang (A is (hot) the same as B . '

122 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

她的口音像你的一样。 Ta de kduyin xiang mdeyiyang. Her de accent like yours same. ‘ Her accent is like yours.’

曰本的跟韩国的价钱不一样。 Riben de gen Hanguo de jiaqian bu yiyang. Japan de and Korea de price not same. T h e price o f the Japanese one isn't the same as the Korean.9

Yiyang can also be used as an adverbial w ith a follow ing adjective, meaning ‘equally ., 他和我一样高。 Ta he wo yiyang gao. He and I same tall. ‘ H e’s the same height as I. ’

这药像胆汁一样苦。 Zheyao xiang danzhi yiyang ku. This medicine like bile same bitter. ‘ This medicine is as bitter as bile.’

Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the follow ing sentences. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

I t ’s got a bit hotter this week. She’s not as busy as I am. W alking is faster than taking a taxi, {zdulu 'w a lk / da dJ 'take a ta xi9) She's a bit taller than I am. Taking the train costs the same as flying, (zud hudche 'take a tra in / zud feiji 'take a plane9) 6. He and I are not equally tall. 7. Is summer as cool as spring here? {xiatian 'sum m er/ chuntian 'spring,9 liangkuai 'pleasantly co〇r )

Possible Answers 1. Zhei ge xingqi re le yidianr. 2. Td m^iydu wd n&me m dng.〜 Td biini wd mdng. 3. Zdulu bi da di kuai. . Ta bi wo gao yiaianr. 5. Zud hudche gen zud feiji yiyang gui. 6. Ta he wo bu yiyang gao. 7. Zher xiatian you chuntian name liangkuai ma?

Adjectives and Adverbs


Comparison with Evaluation Comparisons w ith occur in predicate-complement constructions (shud de hen had). There are two options: (1) the predicate complement can be stated first {shud de {biwo hao}) or (2) the comparison can be stated first (bi wd

{shud de hao}). 他汉语说得比我好。 Ta Hanyu shud de [bi wd hao).

他汉语比我说得好。 Ta Hanyu bi wd {shud de hao).

6She speaks Chinese better than I do.’

Test Yourself Provide the Chinese versions o f the follow ing sentences. Express each sen­ tence in two ways. 1. He drives more w ild ly than I do. {kai (che) 'drive (a car),9 meng 'violent, w ild ’ ) 2. He writes characters more neatly than I do. (guTju 'well-behaved, neat5)

Possible Answers \. Td kdi de bT wd meng. 〜丁d bi wd kdi de meng. 2. Td xwzi xw de M wd guTju• 〜 Td xwzi bi wd xw de gulju.

59. Intensifiers Absolute Intensifiers Adjectives can be intensified or toned down (1) by the addition o f adverbials in the preverbal position or (2) by means o f various postadjectival elements. Adverbial modifiers include 加 r ( 有一点儿)‘quite, a b it,’ ( 很) ‘quite,’ ( 非 常 )‘extremely, very .,

这刀子:有点儿狭J 很 快 / 非常快。 Zhe daozi: ydu dianr kuai / hen kuai / Jeichang kuai. 'This knife is a b it sharp / quite sharp / unusually sharp/ Postadjectival intensifiers includey//e ( 极 了 )‘extremely’ ( ‘to the extreme’), 办办如( 得很)‘very,’ and t o 必 //如 ( 不得了)‘ extremely’ ( ‘ not-get-finish’).

这 刀 子 :快 得 很 / 快 极 了 / 快 得 不 得 了 。 Zhe daozi: kuai de hen / kuaijile / kuai de budeliao. 'This knife is very sharp / extremely sharp / super sharp.9

124 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar Adjectives may also be intensified by fUll clauses linked w ith 也 (得 )•

今天冷得谁都不敢出去。 JTntidn leng de shei dou bu gan chuqu. Today cold de anyone all not dare go-out. ‘ I t ’s so cold today no one dares to go out.’

他糊涂得连自己的名宇也想不起来了。 Ta hutu de lian ziji de mingzi ye xiang bu qilai le. He muddled de even own de name also think not rise LE. ‘He’s so muddled, he can’t even recall his own name.’

Intensification in Comparisons Comparative intensifiers fo llo w their adjectives. When associated with change o f state or current relevance, yidianr may also follow sentence le.

她高了一点儿。 Ta gao le yidianr. ‘ She’s grown a bit taller.’ Intensification ranges from yidianr to de dud to dudle. Alternatively, an exact amount can be placed in postverbal position, as well: yi cun 'one inch,9 yi lilu 'one m ile (o f route).9

她 比 我 :高 一 点 儿 / 高 得 多 / 高 多 了 / 高 两 寸 。 Ta bi wd: gao yidianr / gao de dud /gao dudle /gao Hang cun. ‘ She, s a b it taller / much taller / a great deal taller / taller by two inches than I . 5

你这样安排好得多得多了。 Nizhei yang anpai hao de dud de dud le. This way arrange better de much de much le. ‘This arrangement is very much better.,

上海人口比北京的多几百万。 Shanghai renkdu bi Beijing de dud ji baiwan. Shanghai population than Beijing de more several m illion. ‘ Shanghai’s population is greater than B eijing’s by several m illio n .’

60. The Three


Sections 33, 56, and 57 deal w ith three types o f constructions involving particles pronounced 也 . Conveniently, the different functions associated w ith this syllable are distinguished by the w ritin g system: m odifying de is written

Adjectives and Adverbs

的 ,predicate complement tfe is written 得 ,and adverbial


is w ritten 地 . This section presents a synopsis o f their usage and includes I f functions that w ill be encountered in Section 63.

的 办

(see Section 33)

M o d ifyin g de is written


Possession 我的 wd de ‘ m ine’

我的伞 wo de san 6m y um brella9

Modification 人类最好的朋友 renlei zui hao de pengyou ‘ man’s best friend’

中国人穿的衣服 Zhongguoren chuan de yffu 'clothes worn by Chinese9

Nominalized Phrase 穿短裤的 chuan duankii de

'people who wear shorts?

右边儿的是谁? You bianr de shi shei? ‘W ho’s the one on the right?’ S h i- d e


是今天上午才回来的。 Shi jmtian shangwu cai huilai de. ‘ [I] didn’t get back until this morning.’

Emphasis 炒鸭掌我是吃不来的。 Chaoyazhang wo shi chTbulai de. Stir-fried-duck-feet I be eat-not-able


T m just not fond o f stir-fried duck fe e t/

126 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

得 办

(see Sections 57 and 63)

Predicate complement is written 得 ,which also represents the words 必 / 'must, need to 9and de 'obtain, get.9

Predicate Complement 写得又快又清楚 xie de you kuai you qingchu write de both fast and clear ‘writes fast and clear’

Potential Compound 听得懂 tingdeddng ‘ able to understand’

Intensification 冷得很 leng de hen ‘very cold ’

冷得不得了 leng de budeliao 'extremely cold5

冷得谁都不敢出去 leng de shei dou bit gan chuqu 4so cold no one dares to go out9

cfe (see Section 56)

Adverbial de is written ift, which also represents the word di 'place.9

不停地来来往往 buting de lailai wangwang without-stopping de com e and go 'endlessly com ing and goin g9

渐渐地恢复起来了 jianjian de huJfu qilai le gradually de recover rise le 'gradually recover9

9 Complex Verbs

61. Resultative Verb Compounds

净 见完死 干 着 走 掉 看 做 打 洗睡拿卖

In Chinese, the core functions o f a verb are often elaborated by the addi­ tion o f a second verb that indicates result; the combination is often called a “ resultative verb compound.” For e x a m p l e , ‘ hear’ combines with ‘ comprehend’ to form 极 砂 必 ( 听 懂 ), literally, ‘hear and understand, ’ that is, ^understand/ 'b u y 9combines w ith dao 'arrive, reach9to form maidao ( 买 到 )‘ buy and succeed,’ that is, ‘manage to buy.’ Here are other examples o f resultative verb compounds.

kanjian zudwan dasi xiganjing shuizhao nazou maidiao


'see5(iook-perceive,) ‘ complete’ (‘do-finish ’ ) ‘ k ill ,(4hit-die , ) ‘ clean’ (‘ wash-clean ’ ) ‘ get to sleep’ (‘ sleep-succeed’ ) ‘ take away’ (‘take-leave ’ ) ‘ sell o f f ’ (‘ sell-drop ’ )

A sense o f the range o f resultative verb compounds can be gained from the follow in g four examples, which involve modifications on the verb chi 'eat.9

小宝贝吃惯了奶瓶,不吃母乳,怎么办? Xiao baobei chlguanle naiping, bu chi muru, zenme ban? ( 6eat-be accustomed’ ) “ ‘L ittle treasure” has gotten used to feeding from a bottle and w on’t breast-feed; what should we do?5

谢谢,不吃了,我吃饱了。 Xiexie, bu chi le, wo chibao le. ( ce a t-fu ir) ‘No more, thanks; I ’ m M l . ’ ( on being offered more food)


128 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Woyijing chinlle meishi! ( i贫( 成) Finally, verbs that involve transformation o f one thing into another, intro­ duce the final state— the transform— w ith cheng after the verb.

她把希尔顿这个名宇听成喜来登了。 Ta ba Xi'erdun zhei ge rningzi ting chengXilaideng le. ‘ She heard the name H ilton as Sheraton.’

你能把这句话翻译成英语吗? Ni neng ba zhei ju hua fanyl cheng Yingyu ma? You able ba this M speech translate into English ma? ‘ Can you translate this sentence into English?’

Preverbal Versus Postverbal Phrases As noted in Section 20, a location phrase that indicates the locus o f action usually appears before the verb, w hile a destination phrase generally fo l­ lows it. For most verbs, the distinction is clear. W ith fang 4put,9 the location is usually the place where the object ends up, so the phrase follow s the verb:yS«g zd/ ‘ put it outside.’ W ith gJwgzwd ( 工作)‘w o rk,’ the location is usually the place where the w ork takes place, so the phrase pre­ cedes the verb: zai gdngchang gdngzud 'w o rk in a factory.9 W ith xie ( ^ ) 'w r ite / both options are possible, depending on the nature o f the phrase: zai tushuguan xiexin 'w rite letters in the library,9xie zai heiban shang 'w rite on the blackboard.’ For a few common verbs, however, the distinction between preverbal and postverbal placement is less consequential. ( 生 )‘ be bom , ’ ( 生活)‘ liv e ,’ ( 住)‘ liv e , ’ and zA如会( 长)‘ grow up’ allow the location to appear before the verb in some cases and after the verb in others. The fo l­ low ing sentence is quite natural, even w ith the shift from postverbal at the beginning and preverbal at the end.

喜欢生活在上海的人不一定也喜欢在北京生活。 Xihuan shenghud zai Shanghai de ren bu yidingye xihuan zai Beijing shenghud. Like live in Shanghai DE people not necessarily also like in Beijing live. ‘People who live in Shanghai wouldn’t necessarily enjoy living in Beijing.’ In saying a few words about your background, you are describing a for­ ward-moving trajectory, so presenting the locations as destinations— after the verb— is probably more natural.

Wo sheng zai Llwupu, zhang zai Lundun, xianzai zhu zai XTnjiapo. 4I was bom in Liverpool, grew up in London, and now I live in Singapore.9


Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

66. Verb-Plus-Object Compounds As noted at the beginning o f Chapter 7, disyllabic verbs differ in their degree o f separability. Verbs like zhidao 'know ,9 daban 'dress up, pose a s/ and bangzhu 'help9act basically as units, although for some speakers, they can be truncated in verb-not-verb questions: zhi bu zhidao. Other disyllabic verbs are separable, but the degree o f separability varies. C7?诉 ( 吃 饭 )‘eat’ and ( 睡 觉 )‘ sleep’ allow their erstwhile objects to appear even before the verb.

Zhe ji tian fan ye chibuxia, jiao ye shuibuzhao. These several days food also eat-not-down, sleep also sleep-not-manage. ‘ These last few days, I haven’t been able to eat or sleep.’ Other verbs allow only a lesser degree o f separation. D 而zxm ( 担 心 )‘worry, ’ for example, allows danle bu shao xm cis quite anxious/ but it does not allow xin to be placed before dan. As noted in Section 64, in dictionaries and vocabulary lists, separable compounds are often labeled in English as verb-plus-object (vo.) compounds because o f their resemblance to verbs with objects. The Chinese term 續 合 词 )‘ separate-unite-words’ is more apt, but harder to translate into English. Chinese-English dictionaries mark verb-plus-object compounds w ith an equals sign: xi=zdo 'bathe/ dan=xm 4be anxious about.9 What is special about verb-plus-object compounds, and requires them to be identified in a dictionary, is that one or both o f the components may be a bound form , which cannot usefully be listed alone. This is true o f shuljiao and xizao, fo r w hich neither 他 一份礼物)‘give him a present.’

Gei with Indirect Objects For most ditransitive verbs, gei is required: V gei O O. Mai 'se ll,5for example, requires before the indirect object: wdz' wd 三 jian 得四+ 七。 san de sishiqi. 七 乘 < 以 > 六 得 Qi cheng liu de 四十二。 sishi'er. 八 十 四 除 < 以 > Bashisi chu liu de 六 得 + 四。 shisi.

In a m o re form al r e a d in g , d

Literal ‘9 8 p o in t 6 , ‘4 parts zhi 1 ’ 65 parts zhi 2 9

62 de squared is 4 : ‘sq u are ro o t b e lo w 16 is 4 . ’ ‘ 14 p lu s 16 g e ts 3 0 . ’ ‘5 0 m in u s < a w a y > 3 g e ts 4 7 .9

‘7 m u ltip ly < b y 〉 6 g e ts 4 2 / ‘8 4 d iv id e < b y > 6 g e ts 1 4 .9

( 等 于 ) ‘e q u a ls ’ ca n su b stitu te fo r de

‘g i v e s .’ N o te h o w fra ctio n s are g iv e n b y e x p r e ssin g th e d en o m in a to r— th e total n u m b er o f parts— first, th en th e num erator. T h u s, “three quarters” is 57' 'fo u r p a rts,9zhi san 'th ree o f th e m 9: si

fen zhi san.

'This colloquial usage applies only to squares. For cubes and higher powers, the more general pattern with ml(W) *power 〇r is used: erciml 4to the second power/ sancimi 4to the third power’一 thus, Er de sancimi shi ba. '2 de third-power is 8.J

174 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

Test Yourself E x p re ss th e f o llo w in g n u m b ers and eq u a tio n s in C h in e se . 1. 1.1416 2 . 9 + 8 = 17 3. 1 7 - 11 = 6 4. 6 x 15 = 9 0 5. 5/6

Possible Answers 1. y i dian yi-si-yi-liii 2 . Jiu jia ba dengyu shiql 3. ShiqTjian shiyT de liu. 4. Liu cheng shiwu de jiushi. 5. liu fen zhi wu

80. Money T h e gen era l w o rd fo r m o n e y in C h in e se ,


( ^ ) , o r ig in a lly referred to a

m eta l c o in that, lik e earlier C h in e se c o in s , had a sq u are h o le in the m id d le and w a s carried arou n d in strin g s o f 1 0 0 or m o re. T h e s e are th e strin g s o f “c a s h ” that are o fte n m e n tio n e d b y ea rly w riters o n C h in a — “ c a sh ” b e in g the n a m e o f the co in . P aper m o n e y m a d e an e a r ly a p p ea ra n ce in C h in a , but fe ll o u t o f u se after th e fifte en th centu ry. F rom th e six te e n th cen tu ry, S p a n ish silv e r d o lla rs g a in ed a fo o th o ld , later to b e re p la ce d b y M e x ic a n and o th er ty p e s o f d ollars. M a n y o f th e se ea r ly c o in s ca n b e fo u n d fo r s a le in th e a n tiq u e m ark ets o f B e ijin g and o th er c itie s.

Currencies E x c e p t fo r M a c a u , th e n a m e s o f th e C h in e se c u r r en cies en d in

( ffi, o r ig i­


o n th e oth er

n a lly referrin g to g ifts o f silk ). F o re ig n c u r r en cies hand, are re p r esen te d b y th eir so u n d

比 )(In d ian )


( ^ ) (B r itish ) 'p o u n d ,9 lubi

‘ru p e e , ’ /z ito ( 卢 布 )(R u ssia n ) ‘r u b le ’, o r th e y en d in 少w d/?( 兀 ,

o r ig in a lly u sed fo r d o lla rs). F o llo w in g is a chart o f th e cu rren cy u n its o f se v e r a l c o u n tr ies, r e g io n s, and u n io n s.

Country/Region/Union Characters Pinyin C h in a 人民币 T aiw an ’ 台币 tdibi

English ren m in b i n e w T a iw a n d o lla r


Country/Region/Union Characters Hong Kong 港币 Macau 澳门元 Japan 日元 Singapore 新加坡元 United States -元 United Kingdom 英镑 European Union 欧元




gangbi aom en yu an riyu an x in jia p o yu a n m eiyuan y in g b a n g ouyuan

Hong Kong dollar Macau dollar yen Singapore dollar U.S. dollar pound sterling euro

Usage T h e m ain u nit o f C h in e se cu rr en cy is of

thQ yuan

(w r itte n 7C, a sim p lific a tio n

‘ro u n d ,’ and a b b rev ia ted ¥)• It is su b d iv id e d in to l 〇y /d o ( 角 ) and 10 0

/ ? « ( 分 ) • 扮 如 (兀 )a n d y / 如 (角 ) are th e fo rm a l w ritten term s. T h e sp o k e n la n g u a g e m a k e s u se o f

( 块 ,o r ig in a lly a ‘lu m p ’ o f silv e r ) fo r ‘d o lla r ’ and

w d o ( 毛 , a lso ‘b o d y hair ,for; tr ifle s’) for ‘d im e .’ i 7? " ‘c e n t ’ is u n c h a n g e d in

formal and inform al, as w ell as written and spoken, language. Chinese paper currency comes in denominations o f 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and l y u a n and 5 and 1 jia o . Coins are 1 yu an ; 5, 2, and 1 jia o ; and 5, 2, and 1fe n , although change is usually rounded o ff nowadays to avoid hav­ ing to deal w ith Jen. In citing prices, the last unit is generally omitted: san ku ai e r (¥3.20) rather than san kuai lian g m ao qian and sish ijiu ku ai b a m ao b a f¥49.88) rather than b a je n or b a je n qian. As w ith ordinary numbers, nonfinal zeros are indicated w ith U ng'.yi ku ai lin g jiu (¥1.09). Prices can be requested by pointing to or mentioning an item, using the question words d u d sh a o or j i , and— — i f applicable— — mentioning a weight or number (“ per” ). O fficially, China uses the metric system, but in practice, a version o f the traditional market system (sWzW 市 制 ),w ith units o f 10 instead o f the earlier 16, is most current. For weights, the units are ji n 'catty? (= 0 .5 kilogram ) and lia n g 'ounce.9The amount can be mentioned before or after the price. The follow ing examples show how to request and provide the price o f apples. P m g g u d y i g e d u d sh a o < q ia n > ?

P in g g u o d u d sh a o q ia n y i g e ?

Apples 1 M how-much ?

Apples how-much money 1 M?

P in g g u o y i g e b a m ao.

P in g g u d b a m ao y i ge.

Apples 1 M 8 dimes.

Apples 8 dimes 1 M.

P m g g u d y i ji n j i ku ai < q ia n > ?

P in g g u d j i ku ai < q ia n > y i j m l

Apples 1 catty how-many d o lla rs 〈money 〉?

Apples how-many dollars

P m g g u d y i ji n lia n g kuai si.

P in g g u d lia n g ku ai s i y i jin

Apples 1 catty 2 dollars 4.

Apples 2 dollars 4 1 catty.

< m n n p \ / > 1 p a ttv ?

176 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

81. Names, Titles, and Forms of Address Names Han Chinese personal names are composed o f a jcmg ( t t ) 'surname5(almost all o f one syllable, w ith a few that are disyllabic) followed by a one- or two-syllable ( 名字 )‘ given name.’ Pinyin convention separates from mmgzi and capitalizes both. Examples from the w orld o f sports are former basketball player Wo M>?g (姚 明 ),tennis star i f M i (李 娜 ),and Asian-American basketball player L h 从 放 如 ( 林 书 豪 ),known as Jeremy Shu-How L in in the United States. (The romanized spelling o f L in 9s name reflects his Taiwanese background.) D isyllabic surnames 复紅 )include (司 马 ), (司 徒 ),and (欧 阳 )• These are more often than not combined w ith a one-syllable mmgzi to conform to the dominant three-syllable pattern fo r names. History provides examples: Sima Qian (^ ] ^ 3 ) was a great historian who lived in the second to first century BCE, and A7办 ( 司 马 相 如 )was a poet and musician who lived about the same time. The latter9s disyllabic mmgzi provides a rare example o f a four-syllable Han name. Most four-syllable names are non-Han, for exam ple, 胸 ’ ^ ( 吾 尔 开 希 ),a Chinese student dissident whose fam ily was Uyghur. Although xing in history number in the thousands, far fewer are used in the present day. The ten most popular surnames account for as much as 40 percent o f the population. Supposedly, each o f the Zhang (5K) and Li surnames is shared by more than 100 m illio n people.

Foreign Names Foreign names from outside the Sinocentric area are usually transliterated: (约 翰 。史 密 斯 )“ JohnSm ith , ’M 6 ^ d m d ( 奥 巴 马 )“ Obama,” 0 ’如 z/n' 呢 以 ( 乔 治 。決 克 。布 什 , also w r itte n 养 治 。W 。布 f t ) “ George W [alker]. Bush.” For students studying Chinese, however, it is customary to create names that conform more closely to Chinese models w hile, ideally, also suggesting the orginal names. Thus, Anne Mauboussin becomes X / 加 ’而?( 茅 仙 安 ) , and Robert Leonhard becomes Z^/

(雷 汉 博 ). Usage Names are introduced by the classificatory verbs ( 姓)ory/ 如 (叫) , or by ( 是) • introduces surnames, w h i l e w h i c h requires a nonbound object o f at least two syllables, can introduce disyllabic mmgzi or fu ll names.

Shi identifies a person by name or by name and title. Ta shi Tang Lili ma? ‘ She is Tang L ili, right?’



Bu, ta xing Tan, mingzi jiao Bill ‘No, she’s sumamed Tan, and her given name is B ili.’

O, ta jiao Tan Bill, wo tmgcuo le. ‘ Oh, her name’s Tan B ili. I misheard.’

Male and Female Mingzi are not clearly divided into male and female, although certain tenden­ cies are apparent. Names w ith repeated syllables, such as the misheard Tang Llll in the example above, are like ly to be female, as are names that contain characters meaning beauty (美 w 成 BH /z'),elegance (秀 x/ 々),fragrance (芬

fin), and other stereotypical female associations. Names that contain char­ acters for strength qiang), talent {~A cai), mountains ( llj shan), and the like are probably male. Surprises are common, however.

Patronymics It is a common practice for members o f the same generation to be assigned a particular syllable in their mingzi, often chosen from a poem. For example, Mao Zedong's siblings all had ze in their mingzi: Mao Zemin, Mao Zetan, and Mao Zejian (also known as Mao Zehong).

Titles and Forms of Address In Chinese society, addressing someone by his or her personal name is reserved for an intimate or a “ skewed dyad” (a person o f high status addressing a person o f low status). Chinese are sensitive to status, which is a complex o f features that includes age and professional rank. Titles are an important way o f acknowledging status and establishing an appropriate tone fo r discourse. In professional (including educational) settings, address usually has the form o f surname plus title. Thus, students address teachers w ith laoshi "teacher,9a term that can only be translated literally: Zhao laoshl mn hao? 4How are you, teacher Zhao?9 Where a more precise acknowledgment o f rank is appropriate, the title jiaoshdu ( ^ ; S ) "professor5 can be used: Zhao jiaoshdu. A person w orking in a company can address the manager or an executive w ith jingli ( tx 8 ) "manager9: Ouyangjmgli. A worker in a factory can address the boss w ith changzhang 'factory head5: Zhou changzhang. Vice positions w ithin a rank are indicated w ith 片 ( 副)on business cards: 为 / 邮 / , ( 副经理 )‘vice manager.’ Persons in these positions are generally addressed w ith the flill (not the “ vice” )form: fF如 gylWg/f. Other titles have a more generic function. Xiansheng fo r example, is a respectful term o f address for mature males: Qian xiansheng. For blue-collar workers, particularly when on the job, 5^ 办 ( 师傅)‘ craftsman, master’ is a polite title:



Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar

For women, address forms are more problematical. The term xiaojie 姐 ), literally ‘ small-big sister,’ in common use not very long ago, has been contaminated by various associations. It is still used with surnames, however, to refer to a youngish and presumably unmarried woman: Nirenshi Bai xiaojie ma? 4Do you know Miss Bai?9 For married or older women, the title taitai ( 太太 )has regained the position it once held as a term o f respect. Otherwise , the title ( 女士)‘M s., ’ form erly used only in written language,is gaining ground as a neutral term to be used to address females o f working age. Generic titles can also be used alone when names are not known (as when addressing strangers), or when they are otherwise unnecessary. For men, xiansheng and shifu can be used alone to get someone^ attention prior to making a request, for example. Youths often address friends w ith gemenr (哥们儿)‘brothers, ’ in the way that “ dude” and “ guys” are used in colloquial English. For addressing females, there are kinship options such as xiaomei ( 小妹 ) ‘ young sister.’ Children are often addressed as x/ 如 pSwgy⑽ ( 小朋友) 'young friend9; they reply w ith kinship terms such as shushu 'uncle9 and 办 / (阿姨)‘ auntie•’

Xiao pengyou, mhao?

Shushu hao. / Ayi hao.

‘ How are you, kid?’

‘Hello, Uncle.’ / ‘Hello, Auntie.’

F a m ilia r A d d r e s s

As friendships develop, there comes a point where address shifts to more infonnal modes, such as xing plus mingzi or, more intimately, just mingzi. Fam iliar address includes the prefixes /do and literally, ‘o ld ’ and 'y o u n g / but here used to distinguish relative age and maturity. These pre­ fixes may be attached to surnames, though not disyllabic ones: lao Wang, xiao Bi. The Cantonese equivalent o f the prefix lao is a, now sometimes used in Mandarin, as w ell: a Bao = lao Bao.

82. Proverbs and Sayings Proverbs and sayings encapsulate the wisdom o f the past in the form o f concise, sometimes rhymed, often allusory expressions. Chinese take special pleasure in being able to cite an apt proverb fo r an occasion, whether it be in the course o f a conversation or in a form al spoken or w rit­ ten presentation. Eleven proverbs or sayings are cited here, all w ith some relevance to language learners. Most sayings come in several forms. For some, only the first part needs to be cited— the audience can supply the rest: bu ru hiixue 4i f you don^ enter the tig e r?s la ir5(you canH get any tiger cubs). Other say­ ings are sometimes found in the popular four-syllable format. Thus, proverb



No. 7 has a four-syllable version: pifuhanshu 4ant-shake-large-tree,8 9that is, 4a futile effort.5 1 . 千里之行始于足下。

Qian lizhTxing shiyu zu xia. 1000 m ile ZHI journey begin at foot down. ‘A long journey begins w ith a single step.’ 2 . 不人虎穴,焉得虎子。

Bu ru huxue, yan de huzl N ot enter tiger lair, how get tiger cubs. ‘N othing ventured, nothing gained.’ 3 . 世间无难事,只要有心人。

Shi jian wu nanshi, zhiyao you xin ren. W orld in not-have difficulties, only need have w ill person. ‘N othing’s impossible.’ 4 . 百闻不如一见。

Bai wen buru yijian. 100 hear not-match 1 view. 4A picture is w orth a hundred words.9 5 . 比上不足,比下有余。

B i shang bu zu, bi xia ydu yu. Than above not sufficient, than below have extra. ‘Could be worse, ’ that is,‘Adequate for one’s needs.’ 6 . 三人行必有我师焉。

San ren xing, bi you wo shiyan. ' Three people w alking, necessarily have for-me a-teacher in-them. ‘ Something to learn from almost everyone.’ 7 . 蚍蜉撼大树,可笑不自量。

Pifu han da shu, kexiao bu zi Hang. A n t shake large tree, may-laugh not self measure. ‘A futile effort.’ 8.


Dushu bai bian, qi yi zi xian. Read 100 times, its meaning self see. ‘Read it a hundred times and you’ll see the point.’ 9 .


Yu bu zhud, bu cheng qi. Jade not polish, not become utensil. ‘You won’t get anywhere w ithout refinement.’ ( on the need for education)

180 Chinese Verbs & Essentials of Grammar 10. 吃得苦中苦, 方为人上人。

Chi de kii zhong kit, fang wei ren shang ren. Eat de bitter among bitter, then-and-only-then be person above person. ‘ It takes sweat and tears to earn the respect o f others.’ ( ‘No pain, no gain .’ )

11. 头 悬 梁 ,锥 剌 股 。

Tou xuanliang, zhui cigu. Head suspend-beam, awl pierce-bone. ‘Determined in one’s study.’ Proverb No. 11 makes reference to two exemplary students o f ancient times who became famous officials. To keep from falling asleep w hile study­ ing, one tied his hair to the ro o f beams, while the other pricked his thigh w ith an awl.


Common Verbs Organized by Semantic Area This appendix is a list o f 140 verbs, grouped by meaning, w ith example phrases and sentences. Although many o f the verbs in the list also function as other parts o f speech, particularly nouns, only the relevant verbal meanings are given. The verbs listed here would normally be encountered in the foundation levels o f spoken language study. The list is selective. Common verbs like chi 'e a f and mai 'buy9are excluded, because they have been well illustrated earlier in the book. E x e r t in g F o r c e o n O b je c ts

推 /w, ‘push’

tuizhe zixmgche shang shan bu yao tui wo

‘ push the bike up the h ill’ ‘ don’t push me’

^ T anxia 'push down on 9 Anxia jiu, ranhdu bo haoma.

'Press nine, then dial the number.9

拉 /d ‘p u li’

Ydngjinryi la jiii keyilakai. Tafashao, la duzi.

扔 r 办g ‘throw , Wo reng qiu, m jie. Rengjin lajitong. 拍 ㈣

T u g it and it ’ ll open.’ ‘ He’s got a temperature and has diarrhea•’ T i l throw the ball, you catch \V ‘ Throw it in the wastebasket.’

‘ clap, pat; beat; take a photo’

pai wenzi pai dianying paipai shou

‘ swat a mosquito’ ‘ shoot a film ’ 6clap one’s hands’

脱 /wJ ‘take off, remove’

Toufa ddu tudguang le. Tin men qing tud xie.

‘ She’s lost all her hair.’ 'Please remove your shoes before entering.9 181

182 Appendix }|| zhai 'pluck, pick, remove5 zhaixiale yanjing zai zhai ymgtao

抢 qiang 'snatch, grab9 bit yao qiang qiang yinhdng qiangdao lanbanqiu

‘removed one’s glasses’ ‘picking cherries,

‘don’t grab’ ‘ rob a bank’ ‘ grab a rebound5 ( 4basket-board-ball9)

洗 x f ‘wash’

Ni de chenshan zheng zai xi ne. Yi tian xilian dudshao ci bijiao heshi?

‘ Your shirt’s in the wash.’ "How many times is it reasonable to wash your face each day?’

B r e a k in g a n d D a m a g in g



Tamen ndnghuaile dianshi. You ren bayizi ndnghuai le. 砸坏

‘They’ve broken the television.’ ‘ Someone’s broken the chair/

‘get crushed, get smashed’

ba che zahuai le ba su5 zahuai le

'crushed the car5 ‘ smashed the lock’

iJJ qie 'c u t9 ba rdu qie cheng dingr Ta qiexiale yi plan.

‘ cut the meat into cubes’ ‘ She cut o ff a slice.’

‘ tear’

ba baoguo shang de zhi sile xialai ba xin si de fensui

‘tore o ff the paper around the parcel9 'tear the letter to pieces9

断 办 加 ‘ break, cut o ff’

Ta duanle y i tiao tul Turan shengzi duan le.

“She broke her leg.’ ‘ Suddenly, the rope gave way.’

C a r r y in g a n d L if t in g

W bei 'carry on the back51 beile ge bao

‘carry a pack on one’s back’

拿 W ‘ hold, take, brin g ’

nazhe hua huiqu

‘returned, holding the painting’

Compare 办占(背 ) , with falling tone, ‘turn one’s back,’ that is, ‘learn by heart”: ieam by heart..



挑 tiao ‘ carry w ith a pole; choose, p ic k ’ tiaozhe yi tong shut ‘ carrying a pail o f water’ Xihuan na ge jiii tiao na ge. T ic k whichever one you want.5 带 而 / ‘take, bring, carry’

Keyi dai haizi ma? dai huilai yi jian xiao liwii daizhe shubao

'Can we bring the children?9 ‘ bring back a small g ift’ ‘ carry a bookbag’

H hang 'lif t w ith two hands, lug, shoulder9 kang qiang ‘ carry a gun’ kangzhe chutou 'carrying a hoe9 kang zai jian shang ‘ carry on the shoulders’ 提 ti 'lif t up; raise a question9 tilai yi tdng shut xiang shang ti yidianr 提供

‘fetch a pail o f water’ ‘pry up a bit, t ilt ’

‘provide, supply, offer’

tigong mianfei fuwu fuwu tigongzhe

‘provide free service’ 'service provider9

H ban 'm ove (house)5

Women benyue di jiu ban jinqu. Ta jia ban dao Huhehaote qu le.

4We move in at the end o f the month.’ cShe’s moved to Huhot.9

S e n d in g a n d R e c e iv in g

寄 , ‘ send’ ' Qing gei women gongsiji y i fen jianll

W5 xiangji hangkong.

"Please send a resume to our company/ T d like to send it via airm ail.9

song 'deliver; present; escort5 Mai yT sdng y l W5 song ni huijia ba.

4Buy one and get one [free].9 ‘ I ’ ll see you home.’

'M pai 'send, dispatch9 Ta bei pai huiqu qu huzhao.

pai ren sdng xinjian

‘ She was sent back to get her passport.’ ‘ dispatch someone to deliver the letters’

递 W ‘hand over, pass’

Qing ba lajiao di gei wd. 帮

‘ Please pass me the chilies.’

叹 ‘help, assist’

Wo bangm na ba.

T i l help you carry them, okay?’

184 Appendix

帮忙 bangmang ( v o .) 'g iv e Xuyao bangbang mang ma?

a h and , d o a f a v o r 5 ‘M a y I g iv e y o u a h a n d ? ’

倒 说 o ‘p o u r ’

gei keren dao cha S cheng 'd ish o u t, la d le cheng liang wan fan Tdng li chengzhe shut 3C jiao 'd e liv e r , jiao gongke jiao pengyou

‘p o u r tea fo r th e g u e s t s ’ o u t, serv e; c o n ta in 9 ‘se r v e tw o b o w ls o f r ic e ’ ‘T h e tank c o n ta in s w a te r.’

h an d in; m a k e fr ie n d s9

jiaohuan 'e x c h a n g e 9 Zanmen jiaohuan, hao ma? jiaohuan yijian

'h a n d in h o m e w o r k 9 ‘m a k e fr ie n d s’

‘L e t’s e x c h a n g e / d o a s w a p •’ ‘e x c h a n g e o p in io n s ’

收 A J w ‘r e c e iv e ,c o l le c t ’

Ni de dianzi youjian shdudaole. Qing shouxia zhei ge xiao liwu.

‘I g o t y o u r e - m a il.’ ‘P le a se a c c e p t th is sm a ll p r e s e n t.’

取 扣

‘fe tc h , ta k e, g e t ’

qu qii xingli qii yinhdng qu dianr qian

‘g o and g e t o n e ’s lu g g a g e ’ 4g o to th e b a n k to g e t s o m e m oney9

M o v in g a n d T r a v e lin g

走 zdw ‘w a lk , g o ’

Pmgchang wdmen zouzhe lai shangke.

‘U s u a lly , w e w a lk to c la s s .’

走路 zdw /心 ( v o .) ‘w a lk ’

Zoulu bii fangbian, haishi da ge di qii ba.

‘It’s n o t c o n v e n ie n t to w a lk ~ ~ w e ’d d o b etter to ta k e a t a x i /

跑 ;

‘run, run a w a y ; hurry t o ’

yigong paole si ge difang

‘hurried o f f to fo u r p la c e s a lto g e th e r ’

跑 步 户 如 祕 ‘j o g ’

mei geyi tian p a o yi cl bit 闯

‘run e v e r y o th er d a y ’

‘ru sh ,d a sh ’

chuang jin jiaoshi daochu luan chuang

‘burst in to th e d a s s r o o m , 'rush all o v e r 9


qu Shanghai chuangyi chuang chuang hongdeng 爬


'break into Shanghai (to make your fortune ), ‘ run a red lig h t’

‘ clim b,

pashang name gao de shan 爬山〆

'clim b such a high mountain9

‘ hi ke’ 4go backpacking9

beizhe bao pashan pa 'lean over, lie prone9 Bu yao pa zai zhuozi shang. pa zai dishang kanle kan

‘D on’t lean on the table.’ 'got down on the ground and took a look9

飞 月 ‘f ly ’

Ben niao xian fei.

‘Clumsy birds fly first.’ ( so that they can get a head start) ‘The flig h t w ill take three hours.’

Yao jei san xiaoshi. 开车 A ^ /c /^(v o .)

‘ drive’

Lai, lai, wo kaiche song m dao huochezhan qu. 游泳

‘Come on, I ’ ll drive you to the station.9

‘ sw im ’

Tinzhi youyong. Zudtian wanshang wo qu youydngchi youle geyong.

‘ Swimming prohibited.’ ‘ Last night,I took a swim in the pool.9

F a llin g a n d R is in g

W shuai 'fa ll, stumble5 shuaileyi jiao Ta gangcai ba nei ge huaping shuai de fensul

‘trip and fa ll’ 'H e just smashed the vase to pieces.’

if* hud 's lip 5 Ta zai bmg shang huadao le.

4She slipped on the ice.5

lud 'fa ll, drop, come dow n9 Taiyang lud xiaqu le. Ta shltukanke, san qi san lud. ^

‘ The sun went down.’ ‘ She had a rough career, fu ll o f ups and downs.’


DiantT sheng daole wuldu. bei shengzhi le

‘ The elevator’s gone up to the fifth floor.’ 'got promoted9

186 Appendix

S t a r t in g a n d S t o p p in g , O p e n in g a n d C lo s in g

开始 ‘ start’ cong tou kaishi Huiyiyijing kaishi le ma?

‘ start from scratch’ ‘Has the meeting begun?’

出发 ‘ set out (on a journey), depart’ Women shl ba dian ban chiija de. ‘ We set o ff at 8:30.’ 启程分 fc /^呢 ‘ start a journey’

Women ba qicheng de shijian tuichi le. 打 开 说 ‘ open; switch on’ dakai chuanghu rang kongqi liutong dakai dianshljT

4We put o ff the start o f our journey.,

'open the window and let the air circulate’ ‘turn on the T V ’

关上 gwd似/zawg ‘ c lo s e ;tu m o ff’

Likdi de shihou, qing ba men guanshang.

‘Close the door when you leave, please.5

B u ild in g

m gai 'cover; build [a house]9 ba gud gai qilai gai yi sud fangzi

‘cover the pot9 ‘build a house9

造 ‘ construct, b u ild ’ Zhe dong fangzi shi zhuantou zao de. zaoleyizud qiao

‘ This house was bu ilt o f b rick.’ ‘bu ilt a bridge’

建 ‘ b u ild ’ Zhe zud simiao jian yu shiba shijl. Xuexiao hui jian zai nar? 修 : ‘ repair; build; study’ ba xie xiuhao le Ydu hen dud chengshi zai xiu ditie.

‘This temple was contracted in the eighteenth century/ 4Where w ill the school be built?9

‘repaired my shoes’ ‘There are lots o f cities building subways.’

C h a n g in g

换 huan ‘ exchange’ huan yifu ba gangbl huan cheng meiyuan

Dongzhlmen shi ge huancheng chezhan.

6change one’s clothes5 ‘ change Hong Kong dollars into U.S. dollars’ ‘ Dongzhimen is a transfer station.’




‘ correct, amend’

d e n g x ie w a n le z a i x iu g a i

'correct it after you finish w ritin g it ’

改 扣 / ‘ change’ G ai tian z a i shud. Ta g a ib u lia o sh en gym .

‘ L e t’s try for another day.’ ‘ She can’t alter her voice.’

变厶/加 ‘become different, change’ Ta b ia n le hen dud. Sh iiye bian h u an g le.

改 变 扣 加

6She’s changed a lo t/ T h e leaves have turned to yellow.9

‘ change, alter’

Wo g a ib ia n zh u yi le. gaibian shenghud Jangshi he yinshixiguan

‘ I ’ ve changed my m ind.’ 'change one’s lifestyle and one’s eating habits’

转 z/m 如 ‘turn, change; sh ift’ zh u an che Q ihdu zh u an liang.

‘ change trains/buses, ‘ The weather’s turning cool.’

加 ‘ turn, revolve, rotate’

Ta zh u an le zh u an lash du ba m en dakai. D iq iu ra o zh e ta iy a n g zhuan.

4He turned the handle and opened the door.9 T h e earth revolves around the sun.’

U s in g th e B o d y


‘be bom ’

Ta sh i 1984 nian ch u sh en g de.

‘ She was bom in 1984.’

‘ sing’

ch a n g g e r ch a n g d e hen hao Ta ch a n g n an gaoym .

‘ sing beautifully’ 4He sings tenor.9

住 z to ‘ liv e ’ Ta z a i B eijin g zh u le lia n g nian le. Ta zh u d e hen jin .

‘ He’s been living in Beijing fo r two years/ 'She lives quite close by.9

‘ taste’

C h an g y i x ia zh e i ge.


T r y this [food].’

‘ move; exercise,

do sports’

Bu yunddng rongyi japang. Tajianchi yunddngle san geyue.

‘ You’ ll get fat i f you don’t exercise/ 'She stuck w ith her exercises for three months.9

188 Appendix


(vo.) ‘ line up’

paidui mai piao Ta paidul pai zai wo de qianmian. yong 4use? Niydng shenme paizi deyagao? zhang 'grow, develop, increase5 Ta zhang de hen gao. Ta zai Jianada zhangda de. 等

‘W hich brand o f toothpaste do you use? ’ ‘ She’s grown up very ta ll ., 6He grew up in Canada.9

‘w a it ,

Wo bu neng zai deng lei 抽烟

‘ line up to buy tickets’ ‘ She lined up in front o f me.’

‘ I can’t wait any longer!’

办7(vo.) ‘ smoke’

Ni bu jieyi wo chduyan ba?

‘Would you mind i f I smoked?’

呼吸 /z6xr ‘ breathe’

jihu bu neng hiixi le 休息

‘ almost not able to breathe’


Ni xian xiuxiyi xiar.

‘First, take a break•’

V ie w in g , V is it in g , a n d M a k in g a n A p p o in t m e n t

B| qiao 'lo o k at9

Qiao, narydu liangge kdngweir. 参观

'Look, there are a couple o f empty seats over there.5

如 ‘visit, tour [a museum]’

Ta dai wo canguan gongchang. canguanle Zheng He de mu canguan bowiiguan

‘ She took me around the factory ., ‘visit Zheng He’s grave’ ‘visit a museum’

游览少 dw/如 ‘go sightseeing, to u r’

Di-er tian women youlanle Lljiang.

'The next day, we toured L ijia n g .’ Youke chang qu Dali de San Tayoulan. ‘Tourists often visit the Three Pagodas at D a li.’

yue 'make an appointment9 Women xiangyue m lai canjia mianshi. ‘We’d like to invite you to ^

yue ge shijian jianmian

come here for an interview.9 ‘ arrange fo r a time to meet’



Positioning the Body and Wearing 站 ‘ stand, Z h an zh e g e n g shufu. zh a n q ila i Z han d e y u e g a o , kan d e y u e yu an .

‘ Standing’s more comfortable.’ ‘ stand up’ ‘The higher you stand, the farther you see.’

坐 zwd ‘ sit’ ‘ sit on a chair and rest’ ‘ sit down’

zu d z a i y iz i sh a n g xiuxi zu d y i x ia


‘ lie dow n’ 4lie down on the becT

ta n g z a i ch u an g sh a n g

‘ extend,stretch out’ ‘ spread out one’s hands’

sh e n k a ish o u

$ chuan 4wear [clothes, shoes]; pass through9 ‘ She never wears w hite.’ 'D ripp in g water can penetrate stone.5

Ta co n g bu chuan b a ise d e y ifu . DTshui-chuanshL (saying)

戴 必 / ‘wear [a hat,a watch, accessories]9 ‘ He likes to wear earrings.’

Ta xihuan d a i erhuan.

系 力 ‘tie,fasten [a belt,a tie , shoelaces]5 B u y d n g j i lin gdai.


4N o need to wear a tie.9

Knowing and Understanding 知 道 zAFt/icio2 ‘ know ’ bu zh id a o ta j i a o sh en m e m m g zi

‘ don’t know his name’

认 识 以似/n’ ‘ know, recognize’ Wo ren sh i ta hen j i u le. Wo bu ren sh i n ei g e zi.


D o n g w o d e y is i m a?

lYHo 也

(晓 得

‘ I ’ve known her fo r ages.’ ‘ I don’t know that character.’

‘ Do you understand what I ’m getting at?.

), originally a regional word, has much the same meaning as z/zf必

bu xiaode neng nahui dudshao. 4I don^ know how much o f my deposit I can get back/

190 Appendix


‘ comprehend, acquaint oneself w ith ’ ‘get acquainted w ith the facts’ ‘ look into it ’

liaojie shishi qu liaojie yi xia 掌握 z/z而

‘ grasp, master’

zhangwd sisheng

‘master the four tones’

理解 / 々 • /泛 ‘ comprehend, take in ’

bu wanquan lijie ta de yisi ^ wang 4forget9 Tian a! Yaoshi dou wang zai che li le.

‘ not completely comprehend his meaning’

‘ Damn! I left my keys in the car.9

i H l f jlde 'remember9

Wo jide jianguo ta yi cl

‘ I remember seeing him once.’

Experiencing Feelings 觉 得 j W 也 ‘ feel’

Wo jintian juede bu shufu.

‘ I don’t feel well today.’

以为 yiwei 'feel (m istakingly) that, believe (erroneously) that9

Wo yiwei ta shi Zhdnggudren; yuanlai ta shi zai Hanguo sheng de. 想象

‘ imagine’

Xiangxiang bu cnu m sni snenme yisi. 爱

‘ I thought she was Chinese; turns out, she was bom in Korea.9

‘ I can’t imagine what you mean.5

‘ love, lik e ’

Ta bu ai kan dianshl. Ta aishang ta le.

‘ She doesn’t like to watch TV.’ ‘ He’s in love w ith her.’

羡慕 xianmu 'envy [but not resent], admire? W5 zhen xianmii nil ‘How I envy you! ’ W5 hao xianmu ni a! ‘ I really admire yo u !’ 同意


Wojiben shang tongyi m de kanfa. Tajushdu biaoshi tongyi. 承认 chengren 'recognize, adm it9 Ta bit neng bit chengren haishi taiyang bi ta benshi da.

‘ Basically, I agree w ith you.’ 'She raised her hand to show consent.5

6He [the w ind] had to admit that the sun was more resourceful than he.’



Studying 学 xwJ ‘ study, learn’ gen ta xue taijiquan Ta hen congming, xue de hen kuai.

‘ study tai chi w ith her’ 6She’s bright and leams fast.9

学习 jcwdx/ ‘ study; emulate’ Xuesheng dou yinggai xue waiyu, dul ma? X iang L e i Feng xuexi!


'Students should all study foreign languages, don’t you think?’ ‘ Emulate Lei Feng!’

‘ study, attend’

Ta nian gaozhong ernidnji.

4She’s a ju n io r in high school/


'study; attend school9 ‘ Is your sister still in school?’

(vo.) (Taiwan

N im eim ei hai za i dushii a?

‘ test, examine’

kaobushang daxue Wo w iili kaoza le. kaoshi kao de hen lei


‘ couldn’t get into university’ ‘ I messed up on the physics exam.’ ‘ be tired o f taking exams’

‘review, revise’

fu x i b iji zhunbei kaoshi za i f iix iy i bian

'review notes for the exam9 'review once more9

练习 //加 x/ ‘practice’ D ud lian xijiu xing le.


‘ I t ’ ll come w ith practice.’

‘ prepare lessons; rehearse’ ‘prepare ahead for class’ ‘prepare Lesson 8’

yu xi gdngke yu xi di-ba ke

Speaking 说 M M (Southern Mand. j_z_如 g) bu yong shud bifang shud M ingtian za i shud.

“speak, talk; explain’ 4it goes without saying9 6fo r example9 ‘ L e t’s talk about it tomorrow.’

jia n g 'discuss, explain, Wo gen m jia n g


‘ Here’s the thing ( ‘ Let me explain … ’ )

解释力 •&/«' ‘ explain’ bu neng jie sh l de xiawciang Neng bu neng g ei wo jie sh i jiesh l?

‘phenomena that can’t be explained9 ‘ Can you explain it to me?’

192 Appendix


‘ introduce’

W5 gei mjieshao jieshao. gei ta jieshao ge wuban 谈

‘ Let me introduce you.’ ‘find a dance partner for her’

‘ speak, chat; discuss’

jiii tan dao zheli ba Wd xiang tantan wei renmin fuwii de dangdai jiazhi.

‘so I ’ ll just say this much’ ( ‘ so I ’ ll leave it at that’ ) ‘ I ’d like to talk about the value o f “ serving the people” in those days.’

教 y /•如 ‘ teach’

jiao ta qi zixmgche Wd de zhiye shi jiao Hanyu. 劝

‘teach her to ride a bike’ ‘ M y jo b is teaching Chinese.’

‘ urge, persuade’

Wo quanbuddng tdmen.

‘ I couldn’t convince them.’

jianyi 'advise, recommend' Women jianyi tdmen yinggai jizao chufa.

4We advised them to set out early .,

告诉 gdfoyw ‘ tell, inform , let know ’

yiqie ddu gaosu ta le

‘told her everything’

问 vv如 ‘ask, inquire’

Wd you shiqingyao wen vil. Qing tl wd xiang ta wen hao.

‘ I have something to ask you about.9 ‘ Ask after her fo r me, please.5

请 g/hg ‘ invite’

Qing, qing, qmg. Wd xiang qing m chifan.

‘A fte r you.’ ‘ I ’d like to invite you for a meal.9

猜 cd/ ‘ guess’

Wo cai bu chii m shi shei.

‘I can’t guess who you are.’

骂 wd ‘ call names, curse at; berate’

Maren shi bu limao de. Ta male wd y i dun.

‘ It’s not polite to call people names.’ 4He gave me a tongue-lashing.’

Planning and Thinking 安排 anpai 'arrange, plan, set up9 gei ta anpaite y i ge gdngzud anpai zhuanji

‘ arrange a jo b for her’ ‘ arrange a connecting flig h t’

Appendix 打 算 说 似 加


‘p lan to, in ten d t o ’

dasuan gan zaoban de hudche

‘p lan to ca tch th e ea rly tra in ’

dasuan chiigud liuxue

‘p la n to stu d y a b ro a d ’

‘p la n , c a lc u la te ,co n sid er; a m o u n t t o ’

jih u a z u d y i ci chiigud luxm g


‘c o n sid e r a trip a b ro a d ’

‘th in k o v er, c o n s id e r ’

X ia n kaolii y i x ia r za i jueding.

‘T h in k it o v e r first, th en c o m e to a d e c is io n .’

; c/而尽

‘think; w a n t’

Wo xiang bu q ila i san wang za i nar le.

‘I c a n ’t th in k w h e r e I le ft m y u m b r e lla .’

M ei qiiguo keshi hen xiang qu.

‘I h a v e n ’t b e e n y e t, b u t I w o u ld lik e to g o •’

算 似 加

‘ca lcu la te; su p p o se; regard a s ’

Gudqu de sh iq in g jiu suan le ba.

4L e t b y g o n e s b e b y g o n e s .5

Zhe bu suan tduqie.

‘It’s n o t s te a lin g .’


‘talk o ver, d is c u s s ’

Tamen lid j iii shanglianghaole shud


4T h e tw o o f th em ta lk e d it o v er and sa id … ’


‘h o ld that, d e e m it, f e d it to b e th e c a s e th a t’

Wd renwei wei ntfuw ii shi guangrong de.

‘I d e e m it an h o n o r to se r v e y o u •’

renwei zljim eiyou xTwang

'f e e l th e r e ’s n o h o p e fo r m e 5

jueding 'd e c id e o n 9 juedin g cizhi

'd e c id e to r e s ig n 9


‘m a k e a d e c isio n a b o u t’

H aohaor kaolii y i x ia za i zud ge jueding.

‘T h in k a b o u t it, th en m a k e a d e c is io n .9

Encountering and Happening jil jia n 'c a tc h s ig h t o f; m e e t; v is it 5 Wo xiang jia n m.

T d lik e to s e e y o u .9

Bu jia n bu san.

‘D o n ’t le a v e w ith o u t m e .’


‘run in to [s o m e o n e ]’

Wo yiq ian pengjianguo n l

‘W e ’v e m e t b e fo r e .’

^ 4 jasheng 'h a p p e n 9 N a shi gang qijei hou Jasheng de. X inan Jashengle y i c i dizhen.

‘It h a p p en ed right after ta k e o ff.’ ‘T h ere w a s an earth q u ak e in th e s o u th w e s t.’

194 Appendix

到 期 而 ‘ become due’

Qianzheng xiayue jiu daoqT le.

‘ M y visa expires next month.’

留 /W ‘ remain, stay; leave’

Yao buyao liu geyan? gei ren liuxiale bu hao deyinxiang

‘ You want to leave a message?’ 4leave people w ith a bad impression’

闹 nao 'make a noise; be troubled by, suffer’ Bie naole, wd yao shuijiao. ‘ D on’t fUss; I ’m trying

Bie nao chii xiaohua lai. Tingshud zhe fangzi nao gui.

to sleep.5 ‘D on’t make a fool o f yourself.’ ‘ I ’ve heard this house is haunted.’


I f you wish to continue learning Chinese— or continue learning about Chinese— here is my personal selection o f books fo r further reading or study. I risk accusations o f self-promotion for including my own textbook, Learn­ ing Chinese, which brings to mind another favorite saying: Lao Wang mai gwd, ( 老 王 卖 瓜 , 自卖自夸 。 )‘ Old Wang is selling melons; as he sells, he praises his own goods.9 Perhaps true, but even so, Learn­ ing Chinese is one o f very few textbooks that provides not only separate content for conversation and reading but also distinct methods for the two. B y a sim ilar line o f reasoning, o f the many fine bilingual dictionaries now available to learners o f Chinese, only one is cited below: the ABC ChineseEnglish comprehensive dictionary. That is because only the ABC lists entries alphabetically by pinyin regardless o f head character (see Section 15); this arrangement allows the learner to look up what is heard, as long as it can be rendered in pinyin. Chao, Yuen Ren. d gram w ar 0 / ㈣ few Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1968. Chen, Ping. Modern Chinese: History and sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge U niversity Press, 1999. DeFrancis, John, ed., et al. ABC Chinese-English comprehensive dictionary. Honolulu: U niversity o f Hawaii Press, 2003. DeFrancis, John. The Chinese language: fact and fantasy. Honolulu: University o f Hawaii Press, 1984. Erbaugh, M ary S., ed. Difficult characters: Interdisciplinary studies o f Chinese and Japanese writing. Columbus: National East Asian Lan­ guages Resource Center, Ohio State University, 2002.

McDonald, Edward. Learning Chinese, turning Chinese: challenges to becoming sinophone in a globalised world. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011. Norman, Jerry. Chinese. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. Ross, Claudia, and Jing-heng Sheng Ma. Modern Mandarin Chinese gram­ mar: A practical guide, ed. 2. New York: Routledge, 2014.


196 Bibliography Wheatley, Julian K. Learning Chinese: A foundation course in Mandarin, elementary level. N ew Haven, Connecticut: Yale U niversity Press, 2011. Wheatley, Julian K. Learning Chinese: A foundation course in Mandarin, intermediate level. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2014. Yuan, Boping, and Kan Qian. Developing writing skills in Chinese, ed. 2. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2013.


ABC Chinese-English Dictionary Address, form of. See Titles


Adjectives 50, as transitive verbs conjoined non-gradable vivid reduplication Adverbs from adjectives movable reduplicated forms age and weight And, or, but. See Conjunctions, coordinate Arithmetic Articles (“the” and “a”) Attributives

107-14 108-09 108 107 111-14 115-18 116-17 115-16 117-18 95

ba construction baihua (northern vernacular) bei construction Beijing, names and spellings

164-66 7 166-67' 11 14

Bopomofo Cantonese Causative sentences Characters components o f forming new ones as linguistic units number o f the simplified set strokes traditional versus simplified sets Classical Chinese Classifiers and measures Classifiers, list o f Commands Comparison

173 60 50

4, 9, 79 (note) 169-70 27 32 15-16, 26 31 33-35 26-27 33-35 6, 7 ,8 50, 74 -7 8 75 -78 46 -48 120-23, 124

Compound nouns Confucius Conjunctions coordinate subordinate Conventions and abbreviationsi Currencies

da +objects Dates

53-54 7 157-60 160 xii 174-75 99-100 71 -7 2

de in modification 61 -6 2 , 66 three types 62, 124-26 Destination 39, 6 5 -6 6 , 139-40 9 Dialect writing Dialects. Regional languages Dictionaries 29-31 Diglossic 8 Directional verb compounds 131-33 Ditransitive verbs 147-49 4 0 ,1 5 1 -5 5 Duration Elaborate expressions Embedded clause. See Object clauses Examples, format o f Existence Extent Foreign words, representation in characters Four-character expressions • See Elaborate expressions


xi 95 156


gao 'deal with, etc.* 100 gei functions 97 -9 9 , 140 147-49 gei, with indirect objects (list) General classifier Gloss, versus definition Guanhua and Mandarin

74 xi (note), xii 6


198 Index Habitual actions Hokkien (Fukienese) Holidays Hong Kong

89 4 72-73 9

Passives. See bei construction Peking versus Beijing Phonetic sets Phonosemantic compounds

14-15 2 7 -2 9 27 -28

Pinyin Ideographic Intensifiers Interjections International Phonetic Alphabet IPA. See International Phonetic Alphabet

Kangxi Dictionary

33 123-24 51 17


(离 合 词 ) 80 Loanwords 54 Location 39, 65 -68 Logographic 32 Low tone shift. See Tone shifts Mandarin, regional variation 34 Measure words. See Classifier and measures Measures, verbal (list) 156-57 Mock objects 146-47 Modal verbs, list 102-06 Modem Written Chinese (Written Mandarin) 7 -8 Modification 61 Money 174-75 Monosyllabic 7 ,5 1 -5 2 Names personal for China for the Chinese language Negation nong (fix, arrange) Noun sentence Number o f speakers Numbers Object clauses Object complements Objects with duration position o f Onomatopoeia Particles Parts o f speech

176-78 10, 11 1, 2 (note 1) 46 101 93 3 171-73 150-51 150 137-54 153-54 137-38 3 2 ,1 18 51 49-51

limits o f 16-17 punctuation 16 rhymes 2 2 -2 4 the initials 18-21 the syllable 17-18 tones 2 1 -2 2 Pivot verbs 167-70 list 168-69 Place words 65-68 Pluricentric 2 Position words 65-68 Possession (see Possession and existence) Possession and existence 95 -9 6 Potential compounds 133-35 Predicate complements 119-20 Prepositions 50 -5 1 , 162-67 list 162-64 Pronouns 58-6 0 Proverbs 178-80 Putonghua 1 -2 ,6 Questions Questions and indefinites Questions, alternative

4 1 -4 2 , 93 44 -4 5 43

r-suffix ( 儿 ) Radicals Reading process Regional languages (fangyan) Regional Mandarin Requests Resultative verb compounds Resultative verbs, list

24, 55-56 2 9 -3 0 32-33 4 ,5 3^ 46 -48 127-31 128-29

72 Seasons Separability (o f compound 79-80, 142 verbs) Serial verbs. See Verbs in series SFPs 47 (note), 51 93 shi in tag questions 6 3 -6 4 shi-de construction 93 shtHocaiion 5, 34 Singapore 10 Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman 7 Standard Written Chinese Suffixes 5 4 -5 7 ,8 1 -8 7


Taiwanese (r 抑 w) 9 -1 0 Test yourself 20, 39, 63, 64, 66, 83, 85, 88, 110, 111, 120, 122, 123 , 129, 133, 134, 135, 138, 155, 165, 167, 172, 174 Time clauses 73-74, 155 Time words 70 Time calendar units 71 -7 2 clock time 71 units o f 69—70 units o f duration 152 Time (-when) 40, 68 -7 4 Titles 177-78 Tone shifts 2 2 ,1 1 2 Tones, Cantonese 21 Tones. See also Pinyin, tones 5 Topic-comment 37 -38 , 60 /ow-suffix 57 Transcription systems 13-15 Gwoyue Romatzyh (GR) 14 versus orthography 16-17 Wade-Giles system 13 Yale system 13 Transformation (with cheng) 141 Verb(s) ambient class ificatory + dao


ditransitive. See Ditransitive verbs o f “doing,” 101—02 140, 1 4 7 4 9 + gei o f generalized meaning 99-102 + guo 81-82 + le 82-85 modal 102—06 + object compounds 142-46 list o f 14346 reduplication 90-91 select list with examples 181-94 in series 1 5 0 ,1 6 1 -6 2 92—94 shi sbe ; suffixes 81-89 + zai 140 + zhe 86-88 Vivid reduplication. Adjectives, vivid reduplication Word, versus character Writing systems, borrowed Yes and no

you functions Yuen Ren Chao

16, 26 10

4 5 -4 6 95 -9 6 1, 15, 38, 80 (note)

zai functions 106 z^/+verb 94, 150 Zero-pronominalization 1 3 9 4 0 、 z/-suffix

9 6 -9 7 , 1 4 0 ^ 2 88—89 59 -6 0 56-57